The Advocate's Defense Of Its Closed-Door Policy
In the October 7 issue of Gospel Advocate Guy N Woods, eminent spokesman of the journal's editor, wrote the following in defense of the paper's "closed-door' policy:
"The charge that a religious paper is unfair because it does not publish all sides of an issue is nothing more than a deceptive device, designed to delude and deceive those who do not think for themselves. No paper on earth ever did or ever could publish all the material which is submitted to it. To represent Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb or any other editor now dead as advocating the view that it is the proper function of a gospel periodical to publish error because it publishes the truth is to present them in a light which they would be the first to deny and repudiate."
No one has charged that the Advocate should "publish all the material which is submitted to it." Many haw sought, however, to get the Advocate to present BOTH SIDES of the living issues now before the church that the editor himself admits to be of great importance. II the Advocate takes up such a problem as institutionalism which it has, it should allow some representative man or "the other side" to present his views. In doing this it would rule out any expectation from any and every sycophant who would request space in the paper. Editor Goodpasture could kindly explain, "We are permitting brother so and so, who is a representative of your viewpoint, to write a series so as to get both sides of the story to our readers, so it will not be necessary for us to accept your material also."
But the Advocate has not done this. Week after week its ace writers give their side of some very grave issues, and the editor has positively refused to allow any representative of "the other side" to write. That would be giving error equal footing with truth, they say, which is an argument rooted in Romanism. People notice that the Advocate takes it upon itself to determine just what is truth, and once it decides the people are blessed with a pre-digested diet, Advocate style. So it does the thinking for its readers. Even though the Bible prepares one "to discern between good and evil" the Advocate cannot afford to take chances, so it "discerns" for him.
The Nashville journal has gone so far as to publish open letters to certain ones on "the other side" and in such letters has requested that questions be answered. And yet when the replies were made the editor refused to publish them!
Now comes Brother Guy N. Woods to defend such a policy. If the Advocate insists on a "closed-door" policy there isn't much that we can do about it except to protest, but for its staff writers to say that the pioneer editors had such a policy makes it a horse of a different color. Hear Brother Woods: "To represent Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb or any other editor now dead as advocating the view that it is the proper function of a gospel periodical to publish error because it publishes truth is to present them in a light which they would be first to deny and repudiate."
Look that statement over carefully, and then read the following from Alexander Campbell, a statement he made in his great debate with Mr. Rice:
It is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our pleadings for reformation, that our press has always been open to our enemies. From the 4th day of July, 1823, till now I have conducted a printing press which has issued a volume every year, and a number every month, without a single failure; and, sir, those volumes are filled with communications from our enemies, to speak in sectarian style, as from our friends.
"I believe sir, mine is the only press in this nation that has systematically and undeviatingly given both sides on every question, and opened its pages to all sorts of opponents — Romanists, Protestants; infidel or sectarian, provided only he paid a decent regard to the laws of grammar and politeness. I believe, sir, I may go farther and say, that my periodical was the first and the only religious periodical in the world which has pursued that course. They were, in those days, all pledged to some creed or party — all one sided. I have been shut out of all their pages. They dared not to admit my essays. They feared to let their readers hear from me on those subjects which they were inculcating.
"To those very persons that shut us out, we have tendered them page for page, line for line, word for word in our volumes. Some of them have accepted, some of them have declined. We have then, sir, nothing secret, nothing clandestine. We have called for investigation, for documents, arguments, and evidence. On our pages all parties have been heard and responded to, so that constant readers are the most intelligent persons in the religious world. They know both sides." (Campbell-Rice Debate, p. 887)
Where does this place Guy N. Woods and the editor of the Gospel Advocate? The Advocate in an effort to defend its one-sidedness appeals to the pioneer editors, alleging that Campbell and Lipscomb agreed with such an unfair policy. My, my, the ends to which people will go to defend their hobby!
Now that we have seen that Campbell would place the Advocate's editorial philosophy in the same category with sectarian journals, let us look to David Lipscomb since Brother Woods referred to him. In his book The Search For the Ancient Order (published by Gospel Advocate incidentally), Earl West says:
"Upon the rebirth of the Advocate, the editors followed in a measure that attitude which they took in 1855 when the Advocate was first born. They wanted the columns of their paper to be used as a means of having open and free discussions of all questions of interest to the church. It was not the original purpose of the editors in reviving the Advocate to wage war on the missionary society, but of freely discussing the issue in the desire that unity might be achieved. Consequently, Lipscomb wrote:
"'Any Christian brother shall have the same freedom to our pages, on any subject that we may deem of interest, that the editors themselves have. In one word the Gospel Advocate shall not be partisan for or against Missionary Societies, nor for or against Christians engaging in war or politics, but shall be open to as free, full and candid investigation of the matters from those occupying positions on these and other practical questions as our space will admit'." (Gospel Advocate, Vol. 8, No. 45, p. 717)
There is no excuse for the Advocate blundering to such an extent as to claim that Campbell and Lipscomb were in sympathy with such a policy as it has espoused under its present editor. If Brother Woods would be so careless a student to write without knowing, surely the editor, who published and now sells the books referred to above, would not let such a misrepresentation slip by his desk. Has B. C. Goodpasture not read Earl West's book when he himself published it? Have the editor and his ace writer not read the Campbell-Rice debate and various other books that reveal the pioneer editors' insistence on a free press?
In an effort to snatch the Advocate editor from his unfair policy I am sending this article to hint in the hopes that he will publish it and thus give his readers a report from "all sorts of opponents" — as Campbell put it. If Campbell were willing to give space to "Romanists, infidels and sectarians," then surely editor Goodpasture will tolerate a word from a brother to whom he has directed around 20 articles and open letters. We shall see.