"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.IV Pg.2-5
May 1946

Peering Through The Fog

Cled E. Wallace

There are some interesting and significant reactions to my recent article on "Putting the Schools Where They Belong." A brother out in New Mexico is confused. He observes that:

"I cant see through the fog. These schools are in the same class as Methodist or Baptist schools, as far as the church is concerned. They are recognized by every one, saint or sinner, Christian, Jew, Catholic or denominations, as the "Church of Christ" schools. We support them, our children go to them. Whom do they belong to, if not the church?"

The venerable editor of the Firm Foundation blows a few puffs into the fog which might make a hole big enough to see through if the fog-makers were not blowing harder and oftener than he is. There are undertones of uneasiness, and well there may be, in his remarks.

"That religious schools and colleges have been, in the past a power for good or evil is well known to students of history. The denominational schools have come to dominate the churches; they are recognized as an integral part of them. But this is not true of the Christian colleges under the direction of members of the churches of Christ. I have understood all along that the brethren who are engaged in the school work are doing this as a human institution, not having any connection with the church as an organization, and that churches have not been solicited to support these schools. There have been some exceptions, it seems. We carry regularly the advertisement of these schools, on a commercial basis, and because we believe that it is nothing but just and right that the brotherhood should have the opportunity to know what the schools claim for themselves, and what they are doing. Any one may or may not support them as he pleases. The reports from the churches, and their calls for help when it is needed, on the other hand, are published free and are not charged for as advertising. The schools understand the difference—that the school is not the church, a church, or any part of the church of Christ. They are organized and operated much after the order of a religious periodical. It is not the church or any part of the church and does not claim to be.

That is what I have thought but now Im afraid that Brother Showalter and I have been too nave. A shocking reversal of policy is in the making on the part of the schools and it may not be long now before Brother Showalter has to forget "the commercial basis" and give the schools free advertising along with the churches. Brother Bob Alexander, who is spear-heading this reversal of policy, is flooding the pages of the Firm Foundation with the spiritual exploits of the schools and the indebtedness of the churches to them. The schools are already supplying at least ninety-five percent of all that is good in the way of leadership, preachers, elders, song-leaders, etc.; and if the churches do not get behind these schools and furnish them enough money now and in the future to at least match what the Baptists are doing; then the churches are going to wither on the vine and match the near-extinction of the Hardshell Baptists.

"What we do for the cause of Christ, by providing well-trained preachers, missionaries, song directors, and elders largely depends upon the efforts of our Christian colleges our future success in this training program therefore depends largely upon what we do through the Christian colleges."

The point is that the growing needs of these schools demand the support of the churches as such and the churches are obligated to furnish the money to pay off a continuing and rising debt to the schools. If the schools fail the churches will die. Great are "our schools! If Paul were living and should reverse himself as the schools are doing he would revise a famous text and make it read: "Unto him be the glory in the SCHOOLS and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever." My personal opinion for what it may be worth is that this fanatical campaign spear-headed by an extremist is going to hurt the schools more than it does the churches. The schools are going to pay a big price in both good will and hard cash for the taking of a rash step. The present campaign is an innovation which is shocking to many good and able brethren. The trend of it is far-reaching. If it succeeds it will bind the churches and the schools into a union which will mean the domination of the churches by the schools and the editor of the Firm Foundation can no longer say: "The denominational schools have come to dominate the churches; they are recognized as an integral part of them. But this is not true of the Christian colleges under the direction of members of the churches of Christ." "The denominational schools have come to." The denominations had to come to it. "We" are not there yet. "We" are starting and will get there if somebody doesn't head "us" off. It is high time for somebody to yell like the little boy did who was yoked to the calf "Head us off, somebody!" I think Brother Showalter ought to put the campaign finangelist on "a commercial basis" and charge him for advertising for two reasons. The Firm Foundation is entitled to the money for services rendered, and Brother Alexander needs the lesson Brother Showalter thinks the school already understands "that the school is not the church, a church, or any part of the church of Christ."

These college "Innocents Abroad" peering into church treasuries with a come hither look on their faces, apparently do not realize, or else hope the brethren will not notice, a radical change of policy on their part. I propose to turn some light into the resulting fog. Along about 1938 something happened at Abilene Christian College. Blanks were distributed through a large audience "to give individuals the opportunity to subscribe whatever amount they were able and willing to give, to aid the college in its plans." Nobody objected to this. They were acting "entirely within the bounds of their liberty as men and as Christians." Then Brother G. C. Brewer, who is more or less famous for saying the wrong thing at the psychological moment, grabbed the spotlight and urged that "elders put in their budgets and plans of expenditures certain amounts of money for Abilene Christian College." The thing back-fired and resulted in some published statements which under present circumstances really make sensational reading. Brother Jas. F. Cox, who was then president of Abilene Christian College, said of date, March 4, 1938:

"I have never, myself, raised any money nor have I authorized any one to raise money through the churches—I regret that Brother Brewer mentioned the matter the other night. We asked him to say a few words to encourage the people to give to Abilene Christian College, but we did not authorize him to make a statement about churches putting Abilene Christian College in their budgets."

Less than ten years later Bob Alexander sits cross-legged in his office at headquarters in Abilene Christian College, divides the state into districts, directs the churches to arrange mass-meetings at central points and plans to do just what Brother Brewer suggested in 1938. It took the seed of Brewer's suggestion a good while to sprout but it is now growing fast. Brother Alexander is telling the churches through official communiqus sent out from headquarters, and through the Firm Foundation, "and not charged for as advertising," that the stalk depends on the sucker for its health and fruitbearing ability, and that if the stalk doesn't carefully and liberally support the sucker, then the stalk will die. When the fog has cleared away, it may be clear to all that we will have to pull the suckers off the churches. At least it is good practice in growing corn.

George S. Benson, president of Harding College under date of June 7, 1938 said:

"At Harding College it has been our general practice to solicit individual contributions. We expect to continue on this same basis."

But now President Benson favors the college in the budget of the churches.

Brother J. N. Armstrong who was president of several colleges during his life, last of Harding College, said under date of June 6th, 1938:

"Harding College has never appealed to churches, as churches, for help. This has always been my position, and the position of every college over which I presided."

Brother N. B. Hardeman, president of Freed-Hardeman College, said under date of June 11, 1938

I am truly sorry that we cannot get settled on matters relating to our schools. I certainly do not endorse Brother Brewer's statements and would oppose any congregation putting Freed-Hardeman College in their budgets. Such has ever been our sentiments."

That was in 1938. But it is not Brother Hardeman's "sentiments" now. He now thinks it all right for a church to contribute to a school to help it to 'exist." In the Gospel Advocate of Feb. 13, 1947, Brother Hardeman says:

Since these schools are human institutions, the church is under no direct obligation to them, any more than to a hospital in which brethren might minister to the sick and dying. If, however, a church believes any school is teaching the truth and is thus furnishing an avenue through which parents may train their children, and such a church desires to help the school to exist, it has the right to do so."

What he would "oppose" in 1938 he recognizes as a right in. 1947.

What I am wondering is this. If these schools are as vital as Headquarters in Abilene say they are, then what would happen to the churches so dependent on them if the schools should go wrong and head an apostasy, as many have done in the past. What responsibility rests on those who direct the schools! According to headquarters they hold the destiny of the churches in their hands. The school-men stick together on the same side, the right side, of a vital issue in 1938. Then a few years later, they all flop together to the other side, the wrong side of the same issue. Is that leadership? If it were the right thing to do, can the churches afford to tie up to such a set-up and depend on headquarters to lead them aright? I trow not!

I'm impatient to get one point out of my system on paper. Schools are all right in their place. Brother Showalter has the right idea. School men have it part of the time, and could have it all of the time, if they could resist the temptation offered by church treasuries. The idea that churches cannot live and grow and carry out the Lord's will without schools is just plain rot. Churches lived and thrived before there were any schools and will continue to do so even if all the schools we now have apostatize and go to the devil. The school is a human organization and the church was built by Jesus Christ. The church is not dependent on schools or anything else including religious periodicals for its life. Editors generally understand this I think, and still can enjoy some satisfaction over the good they are doing. The schools had better learn it, before churches have to teach it to them—the hard way. You know a school can get too big—and too bossy. And it has when it gets to the point where it thinks it is so important that churches cannot live without it.

Some forty years ago Brother W. W. Otey expressed to Brother J. N. Armstrong his grave fears "that these institutions would in time become rooted in the church, and so lead to a departure from New Testament teaching." "At that time" Brother Armstrong "resented keenly such a suggestion of danger in the future." Departures from the truth always begin with trends. Brother Armstrong could not see the trends Brother Otey thought he saw, but these trends developed into something Brother Armstrong could see and become alarmed over. Just eleven days before his death Brother Armstrong wrote Brother Otey a letter. Ponder this paragraph from that letter.

"I feel distressed sometimes over the condition of the church everywhere—For instance I think that our schools are all in line to build up the clergy and that the church in general is trending toward denominationalism. I do not know what can be done, maybe nothing, but I do think there is a need for us to put on the brakes, and warn the brotherhood about the definite trends of these times. I am not pessimistic, but my optimism does not keep me from facing facts. I think, as I said above, that all our schools are set for the training of professional preachers. I tell them at Harding College that we are also being influenced by these trends. For all these years the schools have not offered separate courses for preachers and in the schools, in which I have taught, we have stressed the teaching of the Bible to all students. I am still trying to stress this. We have never had a class here that was not open to any and all students, both boys and girls. But still there is a stress here toward preacher training. I do not know that it does any good for the to write these things to you, but I do believe that you are in sympathy with the ideas that I express. Maybe you could write an article for the papers that would."

Concerning this quotation from Brother Armstrong's letter, Brother Showalter of the Firm Foundation says:

"I have read and verified the quotation. I add that last June when I was at Harding College to deliver an address on the occasion of the class graduation at that time, Brother Armstrong in a conversation with me stated substantially the same thing. In addition he stated to me that, as is well known, he had his debates with Daniel Sommer on the college question years ago, but that, as the schools are now going, Sommer was, after all, largely correct in his criticisms. Brother Armstrong favored the schools, of course, but was pointing out some tendencies and some mistakes where he deemed that corrections or improvements should be made."

It seems that instead of heeding some friendly warnings and making some corrections and improvements, headquarters have been established and plans formulated for the invasion of the churches, the brakes, already loose, have been released and the whole shebang headed for the everlasting smash of a denominational set-up. The campaign is under the direction of a man who speaks in denominational language and gets his inspiration from the Baptists instead of the New Testament. Brother Armstrong was not sure anything could be done about it. We think something can be done about it. Some pretty good sized guns are going to be trained on this invasion. If it becomes necessary to kill or maim a few schools in order to preserve the independence and separate character of the churches some of us know where we stand.

The present set-up with headquarters in Abilene Christian College not only calls for church support "for the training of professional preachers" but song directors, elders and the like. Brother Alexander's articles and letters have a phony sound which would have had "Strike Three" called on him the first time up, a few years ago. With a few minor changes they would make fine material for the Baptist and Reflector in a campaign for funds to run Baptist institutions. Don't think I'm kidding. Read his article on "College Trained Preachers." The Baptists have 1275 "ministerial students" to "our" 125. The state legislature of Texas appropriates hundreds of dollars "per capita" for state schools while "last year the members of the church of Christ gave to Abilene Christian College approximately $16 per capita for Christian education."

"There is but one way that we can successfully meet this type of competition, and that is by educating and inspiring as many young men for active service in the kingdom of Christ as others educate and inspire for service in their cause."

So the goal set for Abilene Christian College in Texas is to educate as many "ministerial students" as the Baptists, Methodists and Digressives and a few other denominations combined! Brother Bobby is not quite as wild as Jimmie Lovell who asseverates and affirms and shrieks that "we" could convert the whole world in our lifetime if we would only try, but if the churches will just listen to headquarters and "immediately put some money behind our program of Christian education" we'll be on the way. Of course we do not have Associations and Conventions to crack the whip over the denomination like the Baptists and Digressives do, but then we do have Abilene Christian College which might serve very well for a start until we get the church educated and propagandized so we can have something more advanced and put us abreast with the Baptists. Of course we can't do that now. Even the schools would be opposed to it. But then this is now. Ten years from now they may change their minds again if it becomes expedient. Who knows anyhow what a new administration may do in this progressive age when we are more interested in imitating the Baptists and surpassing the Digressives and even showing up state legislatures than we are in learning and doing the will of God?

I am fully aware that we are not much inclined to profit by the lessons of the past or mark the similarity of our present experiments to those that in a former generation spear-headed the digressive movement. The stage is being set for history to repeat itself. It is well enough though for us to recall that the business of independent churches is to use a New Testament in edifying themselves, look after the needs of the poor and preach the gospel. It is the business of the church, each local church, to raise its own money, select its own field of activity, choose its own workers, oversee its work and attend to its own business generally. It is not the business of one church to be forever meddling with some others and it is not proper for any confessedly human institution such as a school to be meddling with any of them.

Finally, it is somewhat embarrassing that about the time we about had everybody convinced that the Sommer boys were wrong, the schools themselves rise up, reverse a policy that promised to be permanent, and act up generally in such a fashion as is calculated to show that the Sommer boys were at least partly right all the time. Yes, it is embarrassing.