"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.VIII No.I Pg.10-11
June 1945

An Apology For Digression

(C. E. W.)

The following article by Earnest Beam was sent to the Bible Banner by Mrs. C. E. Shepherd of Pueblo, Colo., with request for publication. It is being inserted in full as received.

"God Can Do More Than We Can Plan"

By Ernest Beam

1. Members of the Church of Christ, (conservative) would do well to remember the old College fight in our ranks. George Pepperdine, of Los Angeles, called these warring groups together in his story, probably in 1921. There was much sincerity and much petty talk too. Seemingly no progress was made. But there was the "will to believe" and God was busy as a result of that Faith. Some of us began to fellowship "irrespective of the college question." We took a good "smacking down," from such veterans as Daniel Sommer and A. M. Morris (both of blessed memory despite their faults-grand soldiers of the cross). Both had religious journals and they wrote us up and down, but both were in fellowship with the college folk "before they died and both were interested in unity in all the "disciple" brotherhood.

2. Our brethren (conservative) -for want of a better designation-should accord to our brethren of the Christian Church a sincerity that there is just nothing at all to disfellowship over in the use of the organ akin to ours toward the "no class" minority among us. They can have classes or not-we "don't care"-but they should not disfellowship the remainder of us. That is exactly the way most of our Christian Church brethren feel about the organ. To see ourselves as others see us will help to get together.

3. We should acknowledge the very evident truth that there are areas of silence in the scriptures where we have no more right to impose our judgment on the order observed in sister congregations than they have right to impose their judgment on our order. Whether the organ comes in this class-within this realm of silence and expediency-is not now being considered. The area of silence is there. Scores of us have never acknowledged this very evident truth and these minority groups. Among us who divide over Colleges, cups, classes, and so on, are our children.

If in discussing the organ and organization's we refuse sincerely to acknowledge there is a wide field in which men use their own reason, God gave to them, then do not be surprised when these minorities among us rise up to plague us with the major premise in all their thinking: "Every detail of how to do what God commanded is revealed in Scripture." We have a lot of children that are so much like us we do not like them very well!

But there is danger in applying our reason: there is danger of compromising and nullifying the word of God. Right. If I am not on a dangerous path I am not on the safe path to Heaven. The way is narrow. The sides are close together. We can break ourselves by getting in the ditch on each side of the road. How full of the love and the wisdom of the Spirit is this: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Read it three times slowly and thoughtfully. I did just now.) There are "spiritual" brethren and there are others that are not that far along. Often the greatest antagonists to getting brethren together are those who are not spiritual. They do not come to mind when that word is used and its counterparts in life are called up. They are not meek. There is some good, Scriptural ground here to get up a division! If all brethren were disfellowshiped who interferes with unity because of a lack of spirituality and meekness we would come nearer having a fence to shut the good in and the bad out than the organ fence is.

5. There is ever danger of having, "not another gospel" but a perverted gospel. Has it ever troubled you that you can fellowship and help to warm to spiritual life those who are not known for their faith, their hope or their charity but you cannot fellowship some sincere man possessed of all these, yet differing "from us" in some detail? Grant that he is wrong in that detail, are we not still refusing to fellowship where we are at one in the greater matters of the law outside "our" ranks but willing to fellowship with forms and customs as a basic inside "our" ranks? Is this not the "mote" as a basis for disfellowshiping our brother but the "beam" not even hindering us fellowshipping each other? Does it not trouble you when brethren refuse to admit there are greater and lesser matters in the law? Jesus himself spoke of them. Paul says "but the greatest of these is charity," and Peter, "and above all things have fervent charity among yourselves." Is it Christ's gospel when the central truths are made marginal; and the marginal central?

6. I now fellowship brethren where jazzy songs are used and they know it not. (Not my home congregation, thank God) I fellowship those with few or no songs worthy the King, those who are present but do not worship, and those who are late in the services to worship in song, but I disfellowship my organ brother because I must protect the pure worship! This reminds one of the text somewhere written that goes something like this: "Therefore thou are inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest does the same things." We do even worse: We will fellowship those who worship not at all or who know not what they worship, but will not fellowship one who even though he knows what he worships, and does worship, yet there is an organ accompanying.

7. What then? Is the organ nothing? Well, the organ itself is something. A lot of other instruments are more and worse. A spirit of show and entertainment is abominable. I would not be understood as believing the instrument is intended or does in fact always serve such ends. But in the best years of the church the organ was out. The chief desideratum is worship in the heart. They had it in Paul's day. John Wesley knew of it, too. So Martin Luther, So Campbell. That grand personality-Adam Clarke, knew about it. Show us the best years of the church and we find simplicity, almost severe humility, and a lack of all that appeals to the outer man. Oh, for those days again. Can we not love each other despite all our faults, find ways to work together, and pray to God-and He will do it-to make out of all of us one new man in Christ Jesus for the great, grand, glorious days ahead for His Christ and His Church?

8. Our "Christian Church" brethren not like us? Oh, they are the same stock. Their sins may be more polished for they are a more numerous and prosperous company.

Their sins are not more per capita. In the generality they are not a whit behind the generality of us. Christ's death was just as agonizing for us as for them. True we have some fine old values (in which we glory) which they have lost. They have some fine ones we have lost. This Christian fellowship is never so much a question of where we are stationed as it is one of where we are headed.

As it appears to me, Brother Earnest Beam has made and continues to repeat, in season and out of season, a weak and inexcusable apology for digression. The organ and the whole instrumental musical ensemble is just a "mote" compared with the "beam" that the opposers of this unscriptural worship have in their own eye. The people who have corrupted the worship by these unauthorized practices are in fact better and more spiritual, as well as more numerous than we are. Their innovations constitute a mere "detail," a foible we might say, in a sound program administered by an otherwise noble and loyal body of people. The logical conclusion to be drawn, whether the brother sees it, or avows it, or not, is that these innovations are so insignificant that they should be no bar to fellowship. They should be ignored or treated with the same charity some dear old sister would be who is trying to praise God with a cracked voice and a total lack of ability to carry a tune. "The labored effort, backed by an ample supply of wishful thinking is shockingly weak and unconvincing. How are we going to reconcile all this with Brother Beam's admission that he considers the "Christian Church" an "apostate" body? Brother Nichol has very effectively given him a deserved going over on that point. His inconsistency is apparent to any thoughtful person.

The approach to this matter of fellowship with an "apostate" church, even though they have no intention of surrendering their corruptions in worship, has followed the same pattern since the apostasy from a scriptural worship began. Many preachers back there considered "unity" so precious they argued that it could be bought with compromise. The organ was a matter for independent congregations to decide for themselves. They could worship either with or without it. They could preach where it was or was not being used. It was not basic or fundamental anyway. They were "peacemakers" and "fellowship" advocates. They prattled about weaknesses on both sides. When they could not have their compromising way, they all went digressive. They had no settled convictions to turn them from that course. Where is Brother Beam going? It is admitted that for the present he would prefer to remain with "our brethren (conservative)," whatever that may mean, and become a Beam in "our" eye to obscure the fact that the organ in worship is an effective bar to scriptural fellowship. The loyalty and good sense of the brethren are likely to remove that Beam unless he beats them to it and betakes himself off to some "apostate" church, whose fellowship he so inordinately craves and whose qualities "in the generality" he so hugely admires. It is quite evident that even now he thinks the organ is a mighty little thing compared with the saturated virtues of those who use it. It is a decided step in the direction of digression. In fact it is usually the first step taken by all who go that way.

The favorite method the brother employs to further his program of fellowship with "an apostate church" is a studied and detailed effort to confuse the brethren. He drags some red herrings across the trail and depends on distraction to herd them along the path he has marked out for them. It just won't work. Whatever beams "our brethren (conservative)" have in our eyes will not blind us to that obvious trick. Daniel Sommer opposed Bible colleges, others oppose Bible classes and more than one cup in the communion service, some among us are not as spiritual as we ought to be, and still others use poor judgment in their selection of the songs they sing. These and sundry other things are the "beams" "we" have in "our" eyes, while the "apostate church" only has "a mote" in its eye. If it has even one "beam" the brother failed to make note of the fact. "In the generality they are not a whit behind the generality of us." Since Brother Beam has a choice between a beam and a mote, I am wondering why he doesn't go ahead and fellowship the mote. Possibly he is considering the matter. Personally, I do not fellowship anybody, anywhere in any notion or practice I believe to be wrong. Brother Beam's admission that "Our Christian Church' Brethren" are "an apostate church" upsets all his rambling aberrations unless he means to contend that "our brethren (conservative)" are also "an apostate church" and the pot has no right to call the kettle black.

It is not a new thing for apologists for error to pick out and magnify the faults of the brethren. The method is as old as apostasy. One brother attended a Catholic mass and told me it was the most spiritual service he ever witnessed. He was almost overcome with solemnity. We are being deluged with the spirituality and virtues of Catholics and Jews in a campaign for the unity of all religions. Of course, Brother Beam hasn't gone that far yet, but in view of his remarks, why should motes like sprinkling for baptism, and other little things like that, be a bar of fellowship against a people who "in the generality... are not a whit behind the generality of us"? The naked truth is that Brother Beam does not consider digressive innovations as much a corruption of worship as Methodist faith and practice are a corruption of doctrine. Logically, the drift of his present plea for unity demands that he defend the organ. He will not? Then he will not get very far with his program of fellowship. Whatever progress he does make will be compromise and weaken the contention against instrumental music in worship. Every victory he wins will be a digressive victory. Let it be understood here that Brother Beam is not straining himself toward correction of the sins he finds, or thinks he finds, among "Our brethren (conservative." He finds in them a convenient pretext for making goo-goo eyes at "our Christian church' brethren" who are "like us," in fact "they are the same stock." He reminds me of the fellow who went out in search of a church that would suit him. As the story goes, he finally dropped into one of "ours." An old brother was called on to pray. Among other things he said: "O, Lord, we do so many things we ought not to do, and leave undone so many things we ought to do." The stranger exclaimed: "This is it. I believe Ill feel at home among this bunch of sinners." If Brother Beam thinks that fellowship with "an apostate church" is what he wants and needs, he can hop to it, but please just leave me out of it.