The Voice Of Jacob But The Hands Of Esau
The average Christian in Texas today must feel much as did Isaac when he made the statement that is the title of this article. Nothing but such a state of confusion could be the result of the public and private statements, written and oral, of those connected with the expansion program of Abilene Christian College. Being sincerely and completely opposed to placing a college, any college, in the budget of local congregations and having had some personal experience with Bro. Robert M. Alexander, the campaign director of this program, relative to the matter, I submit the article which follows with the hope that it may focus attention on some of the peculiar and confusing aspects of the situation as it now exists.
To Keep The Record Straight
It is to be clearly understood that this writer believes: (1) That Christians have the right to establish and operate such schools as Abilene Christine College and others; (2) That, in their sphere, they merit the full support, both moral and financial, of all Christians. This writer: (3) Does not oppose A.C.C.; (4) Does not oppose, as he understands its objectives, the contemplated expansion program; (5) Hesitates not to concur in all reasonable statements concerning the good accomplished by the school (past, present, or contemplated); (6) Has nothing but the kindest personal feelings toward any and all whom he knows connected with A.C.C. in any capacity. Be it further understood that nothing said in this article is to be construed as a personal reflection upon the character or ability of any of the men who may be mentioned.
The Source Of The Confusion
There is much confusion wherever I go in Texas regarding the policy and practice of A.C.C. with reference to the placing of the college in the budgets of local congregations. The confusion is not due to "misrepresentations" of "enemies" of the school. Nor is it due to obtuseness on the part of the brethren. The blame lies squarely at the door of those who have assumed responsibility of speaking for the college in this matter. In all of the places known to me where Bro. Alexander has gone to represent A.C.C. in its expansion program, the distinct impression has been made upon the congregations that churches as such were solicited for contributions. If churches have not been literally asked for such contributions, finding the least sentiment favorable toward placing the college in the budget, Bro. Alexander has hesitated not to give it his unqualified endorsement and encouragement. This very thing occurred at 7th and Avenue G congregation in Temple where I preach. I told Brother Alexander at the time that I was definitely opposed to placing the college in the budget on what I conceived to be scriptural grounds (now he emphasizes in the Firm Foundation that it is a matter of opinion). The implications of Brother Alexander's statement are not overlooked by those who differ from him in the matter. Since Brother Alexander's first visit with us, there have been letters many to the congregation over his signature soliciting funds. In one letter, he suggested pooling the contributions and sending them through the church treasury. The matter was considered in a meeting of the elders and deacons of this congregation and turned down Since then, a letter has come from Brother Alexander to one of the members of this congregation, whom he knew to be favorable toward placing the college in the budget, soliciting his cooperation in prompting a rally of the elders and congregations of this section with the view to raising money for the school. In addition to this, only yesterday, the congregation received from Brother Alexander a package of tracts containing a generous supply of Brother Luther G. Roberts' lecture on "Institutionalism." In this lecture, Brother Roberts undertakes to prove (and fails miserably) that churches as such may support colleges from their treasuries. If it is not the policy and practice of A.C.C. to solicit congregations as such (as Bro. Alexander states in the Firm Foundation, April 22, 1947), why does Brother Alexander so persistently propagandize the churches to this end?
"Consistency Thou Art A Jewel"
Is Brother Alexander consistent when he disavows a policy in theory while his practice so uniformly avows it? If it is not the policy and practice of A.C. C. to solicit congregations as such, why did Bro. Alexander, a well-educated and talented preacher who has no trouble with self-expression, include in his advertisement in the Firm Foundation of January 21, 1947 this statement: "If this endowment is to be raised, congregations must volunteer to raise and send in regular sums for this purpose"? Why did he write an editorial in the A.C.C. bulletin of March 1947 on "Should Churches Support Schools?" purporting to prove that it is scriptural for churches so to do? (He failed utterly in the establishment of his proposition). Why did he write an editorial in the A.C.C. Bulletin for April 1947 entitled "Christian Education An Adjunct to What?" in which he seeks to prove that the churches may support the colleges from their treasuries without their becoming adjuncts of the church? Why does he, in the very article in which he charges Brethren Howell and Thompson with "misrepresentation" ( Firm Foundation, April 22, 1947), affirm his faith in the scripturalness of the practice of putting the college in the budget? Why does he contend in the same article that congregational autonomy permits a congregation to do as she pleases about this matter? Finally, why does he characterize by implication as "opinionated" those who oppose the practice? In the answer to these questions, many are interested.
Adding To The Confusion
Statements of others having vital connection with A. C. C. add to the confusion. If it is not the policy and practice of A.C.C. to seek support from the churches, why is Luther G. Roberts' lecture on "Institutionalism" given such wide publicity by the college? Keep in mind the fact that Brother Roberts now teaches in A.C.C. and that his lecture was printed in the A.C.C. Bulletin of March, 1947, and is now reprinted in tract form and is being distributed from the office of the campaign director of the A.C.C. expansion program.
If it is not the policy of A.C.C. to solicit the churches nor seek a place in the budget, why is it commonly reported that Brother W. R. Smith, Vice-president of A.C.C. advocated such from the pulpit of Southside church in Ft. Worth some weeks past?
If it is not the policy of A.C.C. to seek a place in the budgets of local congregations, why does Brother J. B Collins of Big Spring, Texas, President of the Board of Directors of A.C.C., urge it? I am reliably informed that he not only believes it should be done but urges that it be done. He said several years ago that it will be but a matter of time until the placing of the college in the budget will be the settled policy of the churches. Incidentally a digressive preacher and a Baptist layman in Bro. Collins' "neck of the woods" have already been known to remark to a gospel preacher, "There is no difference between you and us with respect to organizations. You have in a small way what we have in a big way".
A Statement Of Policy.
Since writing the foregoing, Bro. Don Morris, whom I know personally and whom I respect highly, has made a statement through the Firm Foundation concerning the policy of A. C. C. (See Firm Foundation, May 6, 1947). A few remarks are deemed necessary with regard to the statement. Brother Morris says: "When the campaign for the two buildings was started in 1943, it was decided by those directing the campaign not to ask any congregation of the church to contribute to the campaign as a congregation or to place the college in its budget. When the $3,000,000 program was adopted in April, 1946, the same decision was made. It should be said that when elders and members of a local congregation desire to contribute to the college, the college does not attempt to dictate to the elders how these finances should be handled, just as it does not dictate to any church on any matter".
From these statements, it is clear that the matter of the church-supported college is not a question of conscience with these brethren but of policy. The very fact that the college accepts contributions from churches as such indicates that those in authority do not consider such to be an unscriptural procedure on the part of the church. Yes, it is not the policy of the college to solicit churches as such, but policy does not indicate the faith or conscience of a man or institution. Policy is determined many times by present circumstances, popular opinion, expediency, and the exigency of the moment. When these vary, policy varies to meet the situation. If the time should come when the view of Bro. Alexander and others becomes the prevailing attitude among preachers and churches, would the policy of A.C.C. be altered so as to be adapted to this brotherhood condition? All indications point in this direction. Not only is this true of A.C.C. but of other colleges among us as is indicated by the expressed views of 1938 and of 1947.
The Real Issue
The issue is this: May churches scripturally support colleges such as A.C.C. and others from the treasury of the church. If it cannot be established that such a practice is scriptural, then congregations may not so do nor may colleges conducted by Christians accept such contributions. If such a practice can be proved to be scriptural, then all churches may place the colleges in their budgets, the colleges may receive and solicit such contributions, and no one has the right to object thereto.
Brother Roberts says in the lecture on "Institutionalism", "The church of the Lord is divine in origin and purpose. Its purpose is to preach the gospel, edify the saved, and support the needy". No one could have said it better. The question confronting us, therefore, is this: May the church of the Lord, a divine institution, scripturally incorporate into its program and budget a work that is no part of her divine mission; namely, secular education and all that goes with it? If this does not seem to cover the issue in the minds of Brethren Roberts, Alexander, and others, perhaps they will affirm that: The establishment and support of colleges such as A.C.C. is a part of the divine mission of the New Testament church. Seriously, Brother Alexander might take such a position for he practically predicates the perpetuity of the church on the existence of Christian Colleges in the Firm Foundation of July 16, 1946, and when in Temple, he suggested that we should have parochial schools like the Catholics.
A Final Plea
Brethren, the institutions among us are worthy of better defense than offered by their misguided friends. I believe them to be scriptural and right, but I know that the right to maintain them cannot be sustained on the basis upon which they are placed by some brethren. Let us keep them in their place or forever quit harping on the all-sufficiency of the organization of the New Testament church and the unscriptural organizations of denominationalism. Let us rather open our arms and embrace church colleges, publishing houses, publications etc. What justifies one will justify the other.
The organized system of denominationalism is utterly repugnant to the simplicity of the Son of God and His glorious church, therefore as long as God gives me breath to speak, and strength to wield the pen I shall stand in unalterable opposition to every movement that tends toward the corruption of the divine simplicity that inheres in the organization of that institution built by Christ, purchased by his blood, and dwelled in by God's Spirit.