"Two Plus Two"
More than fifteen years have passed, but I remember the scene like it was yesterday. It was during the Harper — Tant debate in Abilene, Texas, the last week in November, 1955. I was staying in the Wooten Hotel in Abilene, and staying with me and helping in whatever ways they could were those two great veterans of the cross (both now resting from their labors) W. Curtis Porter and C. R. Nichol. We were discussing the bizarre and curious argument being developed by Brother Harper, which came to be known as the "constituent elements, component parts, total situation" sibilation syndrome. (It had been invented by Thomas B. Warren and Roy Deaver some few weeks before the Abilene discussion. Thomas B. Warren and James Walter Nichols were helping Harper in the same way Curtis Porter and C. R. Nichol were assisting me.)
I had commented that the sibilation syndrome argument was so involved, so complicated that I doubted many people could follow it; but that I felt it might be clouding up the whole issue.
"How much is two plus two?" asked Nichol. I looked at him with what must have been a puzzled expression, searching for what hidden meaning might be in his question. "It adds up to four," I responded. "Are you absolutely sure of that?" he asked. "Of course, I am sure!" I replied.
"Who would you say is the greatest mathematician of our century?" was Nichol's next question. That one was easy for me. "Albert Einstein's"
"Does Albert Einstein know that two plus two adds up to four any better than you know it?" persisted my mentor. "No, I guess he does not," I responded. "Nobody can know it better than I do; it is true, and that is all anybody can know about it."
"Very well," said Nichol. "Do not let Brother Harper, or anybody else, lead you astray down a dozen different blind alleys and tortuous, twisted, snarled up argumentations. You know the New Testament congregations were independent, equal, and autonomous. You know they had no kind of organization, arrangement, society, agency, or other system like the "missionary society" Harper is trying to defend. You know that, because it is true. Do not be distracted or diverted from that simple bed-rock principle. As long as you keep hammering on that, you need not try to follow Harper in all the involved ramifications of his curious argument."
This elementary lesson from the great old debater has stayed with me through the years that have followed. Two plus two is not exactly in the realm of higher mathematics; but the greatest mathematician the world has ever known cannot know that fact anymore certainly than a child in the second grade. There are certain basic truths of the New Testament around which controversies these last two decades have swirled. Once one has thoroughly grasped those truths, he need not fear that the most involved and intricate and complex arguments that the most brilliant student on earth could ever make can shake or damage them. Any argument that comes up with something other than the independence, equality, and autonomy of the New Testament is wrong! — no matter who makes it, nor how cleverly designed it may be. There are many things about mathematics that Albert Einstein knew which I will never know; but he did not know, and could never know, the sum of "two plus two" any better than I could know it! And any kind of conclusion he might reach from involved and complex reasoning, however logical and ingenious it might be, would be wrong.
Remember what Paul said about "the simplicity that is in Christ?" The more I study, the more impressed I am with that fact.