Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 6, 1956
NUMBER 31, PAGE 4-6a

Authority For Expediencies

Marshall E. Patton, Birmingham, Alabama

I am grateful for Brother Haddow's review "Some Observations And Questions," elsewhere in this paper, of my article of September 20 in the Gospel Guardian. It should be read first. It affords me another opportunity to focus attention upon matters that must be understood, if we are to resolve differences over current issues. The spirit of Brother Haddow's article is fine. I commend him for it.

I, too, appreciate the "open-forum policy of the GUARDIAN." When my former article was prepared and sent to the GOSPEL GUARDIAN, I was not seeking protection behind some iron curtain. I was confident that if the article contained error, it would be exposed. Truth cannot die in debate. It emerges with a greater brilliance. I abhor the steam-roller tactics of those who foster error.

Brother Haddow acknowledges that "the question of authority is basic to resolving religious differences." He also acknowledges that there are three ways by which scriptural authority is established for matters of faith, namely, expressed statement, necessary inference, and approved example. But he denies that authority in matters of expediency is established in these ways. He says, "But, when you attempt to establish matters of expediency by expressed statement, necessary inference, or approved example it breaks down... Either we will have to admit some other authority for these things or else discard them as unlawful." Hence, our primary difference is over HOW to establish authority for matters of expediency.

In the first and second paragraphs of Brother Haddow's article under the heading "Law of Expediency" he shows that he misunderstood my article on the points under study. I did not affirm, as he charges, that the command to "sing" includes "memorize" or "song books." My point was that the AUTHORITY authorizing "sing" also authorizes the use of our memory or song books in executing the command. The theme was on scriptural AUTHORITY. I discussed how to establish such AUTHORITY; two kinds of AUTHORITY; the nature of each kind of AUTHORITY — AUTHORITY was the primary point of consideration all the way through. Even the words "general" and "specific" relate to AUTHORITY, as illustrated on the chart. When "general" and "specific" commands are referred to, reference is still made to the nature of AUTHORITY in the commands. Hence, my point was that the AUTHORITY that authorizes "sing" also authorizes the use of our memory or the use of song books in executing the command.

I think this is exactly what Brother Haddow had in mind, though expressed in different words, when he said "No command includes the various expediencies that may be used, but only includes the right to use human judgment in choosing expedients enabling us to carry out the commands." He says the command includes the "right" to choose expedients. I said it includes "authority" to choose expedients. What is the difference?

Brother Haddow does extend his "right" to choose expediencies beyond the divine limitations of my "authority" to choose expediencies. In this he errs. His mistake is revealed by his effort to establish "some other authority" for expediencies. His article affirms that authority or, to use his term, the "right" to use expediencies is established by whatever human judgment deems expedient. He affirms a "Law of Expediency" and explains it to be mere "human judgment." Hear him: "God allows human judgment the right to select the best available aids or enabling means, which of course, are not sinful in themselves." THIS IS NOT SO! Human judgment on the part of many people says that the piano is not sinful in itself. Thus, his "Law of Expediency" would permit the piano in worship as an aid. What is wrong with his "Law of Expediency"? It makes human judgment the criterion. It does not recognize ALL divine limitations! According to Brother Haddow the expediency establishes the law. Just the opposite is true. The law establishes the expediency. His statement is true ONLY when "human judgment" is exercised WITHIN an authorized realm. Whatever is used as an expediency must first be established by authority. Not all things deemed expedient by human judgment are lawful. Whatever expediency is used, even though it be not sinful of itself, must first be authorized — it must be lawful.

(1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23.) The expediency must be WITHIN the particular realm authorized. Any thing deemed expedient that is outside the particular realm authorized is without authority. To use such is to act in an "Area of Silence." As I have shown in my former article, this is sinful! Human judgment in service to God is circumscribed and bounded by the law of faith. When will we learn that we walk by faith every step of the way? (2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10:17.)

Chart Goes Here

The following diagram illustrates this matter:


"Sing" (Eph. 5:19) (soprano, tenor, alto, bass memorize - song books)

Instrumental (piano, guitar, harp, flute, violin, banjo, tambourine)

The authority authorizing us to "sing" (Eph. 5:19) is limited to one realm of particular. In relation to realms of music the authority is specific. It specifies "sing" and excludes other realms of music. Yet, WITHIN this one realm of music, namely, "sing" there are a number of expediencies — e.g., soprano, tenor, alto, bass, the use of our memory or song books, etc. Thus, we have general authority for each and all of these expediencies. It is general authority because no one of them is specified, yet all are WITHIN the realm authorized. This is what I mean by inclusive nature of general authority. Remember, Webster says, general authority includes each and all of the class, kind, or order under study, though not precisely stated nor revealed. Let us all learn that to justify any expediency, one must first show general authority for it. Instrumental music cannot be expedient because it is not in the realm of "sing." It is in another realm of music, and there is no authority for any other realm of music in worship.

In our efforts to show a Digressive that the piano is not an aid but an ADDition to the command to "sing" we must show him that nothing is expedient in God's sight unless it is WITHIN the particular realm authorized. When he understands this, it is easy for him to see that his piano is in an unauthorized realm, and, therefore, cannot be an expediency pleasing unto God. If he could find general authority for "music" WITHOUT FURTHER SPECIFICATIONS, he would have authority for both realms, namely, "sing" and "instrumental." All within both realms would be expediencies authorized by general authority. However, the truth of the matter is that he has scriptural authority ONLY for "sing" and all that is WITHIN that particular realm.

In paragraph seven of Brother Haddow's article he confuses two distinct realms, namely, the material out of which the ark was built (material that went into the structure of the ark itself, and, therefore, became a part of it) and tools used in building the ark. The following diagram will make his error more obvious:

Chart Goes Here

"Make thee an ARK" (Gen. 6:14)

Material (Wood) Tools

Oak Oak Mallet Pine Oak Hammer handles

Cedar Pine Ladders Gopher Cedar Scaffolding

Concerning the material that went into the ark God specified the wood that was to be used. General authority to make the ark out of wood would have included authority for all in that particular realm — gopher, pine, cedar, oak, etc. But God specified "gopher" and that excluded all other wood as material built into the ark. This is what I mean by the exclusive nature of "specific" authority. The authority in the statement "Make thee an ark" authorizes (by necessary inference) the use of tools with which to do the making. Since there is NO FURTHER SPECIFICATION regarding tools, all that is IN that particular realm may be chosen as an authorized expediency. For them we have general authority in the statement "Make thee an ark." If God had said "Make thee an ark of gopher wood using tools of oak" that would have excluded tools of pine, cedar, and all other wood. "Material" is one realm. "Tools" is a different realm. A specific in one realm does not become specific in another realm; unless so specified. The specific "gopher" excludes pine, cedar, oak, eta, ONLY as it applies to "material" used in the structure of the ark itself. The specific "gopher" does not exclude oak, pine, cedar, etc., as it applies to the "tools" used in building the ark. The tools, then, did not expedite the "material." The tools did expedite the "making" of the ark. In my former article I pointed out that one must be careful to distinguish between the realms or classes under study, otherwise confusion will result.

This same mistake is made by Brother G. K. Wallace in his ADVOCATE article on "The Pattern." He confuses the two distinct realms of individual and church activity. The only authority for one church sending money to another church is established by approved examples. These examples are specific, and, therefore, exclude the type of cooperation for which he contends. Rather than recognizes the specific, and, therefore, exclusive nature of such authority he denies that church cooperation is in the examples and cries there is no pattern. By this I think he means no specific pattern — one is not bound to the exclusion of another. But how does he seek to show authority for his church cooperation? Why he selects the ambiguous, GENERAL term "fellowship" which includes both individual and church activity. One might as well try to make the "gopher" used in the ark cover both the "material" and the "tools." The following diagram illustrates this matter.

Fellowship (?)

Individual Church

Believer's widow Sponsoring church

(1 Tim. 5:16) Missionary society Association

Secular education 2 Cor. 8:13, 14

Physical recreation

Social entertainment There is no passage in the New Testament that authorizes "fellowship" in the general sense. What do I mean by the general sense? I mean "fellowship" WITHOUT FURTHER SPECIFICATIONS. There is no passage in the New Testament that authorizes "music" in the general sense — WITHOUT FURTHER SPECIFICATIONS. If so, then the Digressives have general authority for their piano. When the scriptures authorize us to "make melody" (Eph. 5:19) they also give FURTHER SPECIFICATION. That takes it out of the realm of general authority as it respects music and puts it in the specific. The scriptures specify "sing" and that specification excludes all other music.

If the New Testament authorizes "fellowship" WITHOUT FURTHER SPECIFICATIONS, then the authority is general and ALL fellowship in the Lord's work is scriptural. This would authorize not only the sponsoring church type of fellowship, but also all other types — e.g., Missionary society, association, etc. Any verse that Brother Wallace uses to exclude the missionary society will break down his "generic" use of the term "fellowship." It will be proof of FURTHER SPECIFICATION. Remember, general authority is WITHOUT FURTHER SPECIFICATION!

Furthermore, Brother Wallace knows as well as any and hats taught with as much emphasis as any that authority for individual activity does not necessarily mean authority for church activity. Any honest soul who considers 1 Timothy 5:16 can see that they are two distinct realms, as much so as the "material" in the ark and the "tools" used in building it. Here an individual is authorized to have fellowship in a particular matter with another individual. Yet this fellowship on the part of the church is forbidden. First Timothy 5:16 separates the two realms and makes it necessary for authority to be established for each separately. The diagram also illustrates other points of distinction. Brother Wallace's argument ( ?) necessitates the conclusion that either ALL church fellowship is scriptural, or there is no authority at all for any church fellowship. I do not believe he is prepared for either horn of the dilemma. He ought to repudiate his argument!

I believe that Brother Haddow's question "Who can produce from the New Testament an expressed statement, necessary inference, or approved example for the church-owned meeting house, tuning fork, song book, or song leader waving his arm?" has been clearly answered in this article by showing scriptural authority for the "song book." It is IN the genus "sing" of Ephesians 5:19. Authority for the other expediencies mentioned by him can likewise be established by generic expressed statements. Thus, I have shown scriptural authority for the expediencies "memorize" and "song books." I have even shown scriptural authority for Brother Haddow's "oak mallets," "pine ladders," etc. HOW? By general authority vested in the expressed statements "sing" and "Make thee an ark." Such authority may also be established by necessary inferences and approved examples. Scriptural authority for expediencies can be established ONLY by generic expressed statements, necessary inferences, and approved examples. Brethren, we MUST have scriptural authority, either "generic" or "specific" for ALL that we do. Read again Colossians 3:17! Brother Haddow states my position altogether too mildly when he says, "Brother Patton could see the necessity for defending at least some expedients." I see the need for defending with scriptural authority ALL expediencies! It is pathetic that some brethren will affirm that we can do some things for which we have no "thus saith the Lord." Human judgment of itself cannot establish expediencies! ALL expediencies are WITHIN an authorized realm. There are no expediencies OUTSIDE an authorized realm. We have book, chapter, and verse authorizing the former. We have none for the latter. Brethren, let's first establish scriptural authority for expediencies.

Brother Haddow's question "about the extra organization (legal corporation) which is formed to enable a congregation to buy and own a meeting house" involves a consideration of some legalities with which I am not too familiar. However, I have regarded such as parallel to the church's use of a contracting corporation to build its meeting house. If some states require that legal corporations hold in trust church property, I suppose that some brethren could form such corporation and hold in trust the property for the church. The church could continue to function in the full discharge of its God ordained mission irrespective of the legal corporation. I would welcome a more extensive study of this question by those who understand more clearly the legalities involved.