That apostasy has occurred in some churches of Christ is apparent. Such trends
are not new (cf. Acts 20:28ff), however heartbreaking they may be.
In recent years we have seen congregations digress into sectarian practices and formulate new traditions. A listing of such digressions is not necessary for this present treatise as the fact is obvious to concerned brethren everywhere.
As with any error pertaining to things religious, the fault can be attributed personally to the individual and more widely to contributing influences. Many of the colleges which have been founded by brethren over the past two hundred years have served as contributing influences to doctrinal digression and moral impurity. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century we saw colleges like Bethany and the College of the Bible was used to influence digression among God’s people. In the latter half of the twentieth century we have seen other institutions follow suit.
Thus we suggest to you, on the basis of historical facts relative to our colleges,
that the present apostasy which is transpiring in the Lord’s church is
a trickle down apostasy. It follows accordingly:
1. A college seeks regional accreditation;
2. In order to offer graduate studies and please accrediting associations, a certain number of professors need terminal degrees (Ph.D., Th.D., etc.) from other accredited institutions in their field of study.
3. But, no brotherhood related school offered an accredited terminal degree in biblical studies until Amridge University began offering one in the first decade of this century.
4. Thus, in order for a professor to receive an accredited degree he had to attend and graduate from a denominationally affiliated seminary, a secular government operated school, or an institution operated by disbelieving Jews.
5. Having sat at the feet of denominational, secular, or disbelieving professors for a number of years, the teacher is “qualified” to return to the classroom in a “Christian” college and teach Bible to students desiring a life in the field of ministry.
6. Some (many) of these teachers inevitably teach denominational, secular, or modernistic precepts to the students, for that is what has influenced them for the past several years.
7. The “preacher” students in turn (and others as well) take what they have learned with them into the pulpit and classroom of the local church.
8. The students also make arrangements for their “trained” professors to speak to the congregation and impart their knowledge to the church.
9. Having continued this trend for half a century or longer, the church has been thoroughly indoctrinated in denominational, secular, and modernistic doctrines.
10. Moreover, the “trained” professors never quite received any training on how to preach and exhort. Thus, they are unable to train the preacher students on how to preach with passion and pathos (a quality that evokes pity or sadness). The result is weak preaching and watered down doctrine.
In the 1930s Foy E. Wallace, Jr. warned us that, “Back of much of this doctrinal softness is the influence of some of the colleges among us” [Foy E. Wallace, Jr., “Jehovah-Nissi —The Lord My Banner,” The Bible Banner, (July, 1938), Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.1 ff]. He continued his observations referring to the trend as “college domination” [Ibid]. Wallace prophetically writes: “They have harbored teachers of error; they have promoted a spirit of worldliness; they have manifested an air of superiority; they have conducted campaigns among the churches to affiliate the church and school which will eventually, if continued, result in college domination and control in the church” [Ibid].
Wallace continued by offering no less than six ways in which college domination
has been/will be felt in the church. They are as follows:
1. By boycotting preachers who do not “cooperate” with said college, criticize, or oppose the linking of the church and college in the church’s budget;
2. When a president of a college can dictate congregational policy through the “Ex-Student’s Association“
3. When the young people in the church, preachers or not, are obligated to the institution that graduated them and become a virtual auxiliary of that college in the local congregation;
4. When it comes to pass that “Our alma mater which art in Abilene” can command the loyalty and devotion from an alumni equal to the homage due “Our Father which art in heaven” —that is college domination plus.
5. By measuring a man’s loyalty to Christ by his loyalty to a college;
6. When we feel that we can criticize the church at free will, but say one word against the college and you become anathema!
At one time it could be said that the colleges helped to bolster the church in the area which it was located. Such is not the case today. Even a casual glance at the churches in “college towns” will bring to our attention the reality of this trickle-down apostasy. Indeed the pursuit of terminal degrees has led to a number of terminal illnesses in the Lord’s church.
Having stated the obvious case before, let us ask how can these institutions
among us be reformed? First, ask yourselves what items are essential to the
continuation and facilitation of any school and you will observe the following
three essentials: 1) money; 2) teachers; 3) students. Without money, teachers,
and students, a school —any school —would be forced to close.
With that being said, as concerned Christians, how can we impact reform in the schools we have helped to build? In the first place...
• We must stop sending them our money. In the second place,
• We must not teach for them until they choose to cease their efforts of digression, or support any of their faculty members which teach error. And lastly,
• We must determine not to send our children or choose ourselves to be educated at such places.
Only when these schools feel the pressure of not having money, teachers, or students will they evaluate their decisions and the direction they have chosen. However, money, teachers and students are worldly concerns —which should be of no concern at all. The point ought to be, where is their concern for Truth and Righteousness? Shouldn’t God’s word and faithfulness to him be the most important goal? But sadly, they go where the money is!
Concerning the church, we must cease allowing these schools to dominate us. An education is all well and good when it is intended to be used for well and good! However, regardless of the education a person may have, if they are not determined to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, they should not be allowed to preach or teach for God’s people. Moreover, churches must determine to have men as their preachers who are willing to do the work of an evangelist, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine, and live a pure and godly life. Only when churches stop allowing the degrees and diplomas to dictate the desired candidates for the job, and place the emphasis back where it belongs and seek to hire faithful men who are willing and able to teach others also, will we see a change for the better. Only when we expect more out of our preachers will we get more out of our preachers. Only then will we be able to thwart the apostasy which has trickled down among us.
Andrew D. Erwin
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