"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.VI Pg.2-3
January 1944

"Titles Of Honor"

The following article by L. R. Wilson was written sometime ago and was read over station WOAI at San Antonio in one of Brother Wilson's broadcasts. It represents the views of the editor so completely that it is being passed on in this editorial space with the author's consent—not his request, our request and his consent. We are not alone in the conviction that it is wrong for our colleges to confer the honorary Doctor's Degree on our preacher's. It is claimed, of course, that these degrees are not religious degrees. Strictly speaking, perhaps not—but for all essential purposes and effects they are. The purpose is to give prestige in that very way. It is so understood by the public. Sectarian preachers strive for them. When our preachers become Doctor it is on the exact level with such men as "Doctor Norris" and "Doctor Bogard" and "Doctor Webber" and all the Doctors of religious Doctordom. We sincerely believe that it is bad for the preachers, and bad for the church; that it is a bad example and exerts a bad influence among young preachers. When a man has served the cause of Christ and the church of the Lord for many years, his work becomes his distinction and the empty honor of a conferred Doctor's title is a meaningless thing. I wish to commend Brother Wilson's article to the brethren as worthy of serious consideration, trusting that men at the head of our schools may not assume that it is beneath their notice, but that they will also reflect upon it for the good of the Cause we seek to promote and preserve.

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Some of you may have wondered why the announcer always addresses me as "Mr. Wilson" without the use of any other title of honor. As a rule preachers have some title of honor affixed to their name. If nothing more the term "Reverend" is affixed by common consent. I do not disclaim the use of this term, or any other title of honor, merely because I want to be eccentric. I do not have any desire to be different from other people. I try not to be cranky or unduly critical. The fact is I should like to be popular, and to string along with the crowd. In reality I should like to be addressed as "Reverend" if I did not feel it presumptuous to do so. In our English Version we have the term "Reverend" only one time, where it is affixed to the name of Jehovah, God. In Ps. 111:9 the writer said of Jehovah, "Holy and reverend is His Name." I strive continually to be holy and reverend in my manner of life, but to affix these sacred terms to my name—terms which no inspired writer ever dared affix to the name of anyone save God the Father—I disclaim on the ground that I am human and not worthy of them. To arrogate to myself titles which belong solely to God would be a presumptive sin. Jesus said, "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 23:12). As far as I know how, I expect to remain humble before God and before my fellows, with the confident hope He may exalt me among those whom He places on His right hand after this life is over.

I receive mail almost every day addressed to "The Reverend L. R. Wilson." Scarcely a day goes by that I am not called "Reverend" or "Doctor," or by some other high-sounding title. I dislike to appear rude and critical in the presence of those who seek to do me honor; hence I do not always rush forward to correct those who seek to flatter me by such high-sounding terms. But for me to allow these terms to be broadcast to the many thousands who are always listening would be tacitly consenting to their use. For this reason I kindly asked the announcer to refrain from applying to me any of the titles of honor which are ordinarily conferred upon the preachers. You may be ready to ask then, "Just what title do you wear?" To this let me say, I have never adopted any title of honor. I do not care whether you use any special form of address whatever in referring to me. If I may so live and conduct myself that you feel like calling me "Brother" I shall be very happy indeed. This term places me on a common level with all other people. Paul said, "In Christ Jesus we are all one." However if you do not care to call me "Brother" I have no objection. You may call me "Mister" if you prefer, just as you speak to other men. If this be not to your liking then call me "L. R.." Many of my brethren and close friends use this abbreviated term because they feel it removes all barriers and brings us closer together than if they used even the term "Brother." I have one brother and one sister in the flesh but I do not affix the terms "Brother" and "Sister" each time I speak to them. I call them by their first name, and they address me in the same way. The sweetest word in all the world to any person is his or her name. About the greatest blunder one could make is to forget, or misspell, or mispronounce another's name. I have some degrees from higher institutions of learning, and when I taught at the University of Tennessee the faculty and students usually addressed me by the highest title of honor they knew; nevertheless I never sought to be so addressed, nor do I covet such worldly honors and flattering titles. My one purpose in life is to teach people how to be saved in Heaven at last, and to assist them along the way. To remove myself far from them by insurmountable barriers would defeat the work I am striving to perform.

In all the writings of the New Testament we have no letters begun in the following manner: "The Reverend Paul;" or "Doctor Peter;" or "Rabbi James;" or "Father John." Instead Paul usually began his letters after this fashion. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ." If you will look in the margin of your American Standard Version you will note that Paul used the term "bond-servant" in speaking of himself. The translators gave us the word "servant" but Paul actually used the term which signifies "bondservant'.' or "slave." What a contrast to the term "Reverend," which was affixed to the name of Jehovah, God. Uninspired men of today have arrogated to themselves the highest terms conceivable, while Paul, the inspired apostle, applied to himself the most menial and lowly term he could conceive. When all the preachers assumed the title of "Reverend" some felt that a plan had to be devised whereby they could reserve for themselves exclusive honors, which the run-of-the-mill preachers could not get. Hence they secured the title of "Doctor." This is an honorary title ordinarily conferred by some recognized institution of learning. Note: I said it is ordinarily conferred by some recognized institution of learning. However this is not always true. The title is sometimes bought. Sometimes it is forged; and in many instances like the term "Reverend"-it is simply assumed.

Just why do men covet such honors? There is but one answer. It is a desire to be exalted. They do not want to be placed on the same plane with the common people. They want others to look up to them. Because of the great number of preachers and the difficulty in keeping the average ones from grabbing the same titles of honor which the more ambitious arrogate to themselves some of the religious bodies worked out a system whereby all the preachers were compelled to accept the special titles of honor conferred upon them by the "head" of the organization. Hence we have such terms as, "The Reverend John Doe;" "The Very Reverend John Blank;" or "The Most Reverend John Jones." Those who are acquainted with these titles of honor are able to determine from them the particular "rank" of the individual in the religious body with which he is affiliated. Thus men are exalted all the way from the "laity" to the exalted head of the church. If you can conceive of more presumption and arrogance I should like to know what it is. On one occasion Jesus said to His disciples. "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28). Men have reversed Jesus on this matter.

Just here let me quote an entire paragraph taken from the lips of our Lord. It is related in Matt. 23:1-12. "Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. But all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the market places, and to be called of men, Rabbi. But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even the Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted."

Here our Lord gives a positive injunction against the use of titles of honor when applied to men. He positively forbids us to call any man "Rabbi," "Father," "Master," or any other such like titles of dignity. I can understand why people who do not claim to believe the Bible might run counter to what it says, but to save my life I do not understand intelligent men who claim to believe the Bible and yet fly into the face of such positive injunctions as Jesus here gives. If sinful to call men "Rabbi," "Father," "Master" it is equally sinful to address them as "Doctor" or "Reverend." Jesus severely reprimanded the scribes and

Pharisees because of their love of high places and titles of honor, and concluded with these words, "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant and whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted."

Jesus severely condemned the Pharisees because they sought to appear pious before men and to make a show of their religion. Their teachers wore special robes of distinction with wide and flashy borders; they wore large pouches on their arms and about their necks in which a portion of the law of Moses was carried. These pouches were called phylacteries, and served more as ornaments than anything else. If I have to put on some special religious dress and wear some peculiar ornament about my neck or on my watch chain in order to convince people of my piety and goodness then I doubt if it is worth anything in the sight of either God or man. High-sounding titles and external appearances caused Jesus to say, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23:25-28). -L. R. Wilson.