Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 4, 1958

Legalism, Seeds, Weeds

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

The Gospel Advocate, June 26 and July 3, carried two articles by Wendell Bloomingburg under the title, "Legalism Gone to Seed." It was reported somewhere that he was coining to David Lipscomb to teach. That will somewhat explain the articles; they are his public confession that he goes along with the Lipscomb-Advocate politico-religious machine. This is his party membership ticket. He makes the same pseudo-arguments, the same blunders, the same misrepresentations as others have made time and again.

He confuses legalism with tradition and opinion. He would have us believe that he can adhere to the Scriptures in some way other than by strict conformance to their teaching. He says:

"As one surveys the brotherhood of those claiming to be simple New Testament Christians, he cannot hide his eyes to the fact that some truly become "legalistic' in their thinking and that it is a very real danger for us who try to be 'scriptural' in what we do religiously."

Thus he reverts to the same old cry of Pendleton and others who championed the Missionary Society. They claimed that they wanted to be scriptural but that those who opposed the Society were legalists. It is the old shyster trick of calling them an opprobrious name if you can neither understand nor refute their argument.

Church-Individual Misrepresentation

He does not recognize the difference between the church contributing to a college or an orphan home and an individual contributing to the college or providing for an orphan. That fact is demonstrated in this quotation:

"One ardent opposer of orphanages claimed that he could empty all the present orphanages operated by congregations or individual Christians and put all the orphans with Christian families. At the same time it was being argued by some of these brethren that colleges had the right to exist, but must be supported by individuals and not the 'church as such.' In other words, if individuals supported the colleges that was not the 'church as such' doing it; yet the 'church as such' assumed its obligation to orphans by individuals taking them into their own homes?'

Can you find in the statement of the conversation with the "ardent opposer" where he said that when the individuals took all the orphans that would be the church doing it? That is the conclusion Bloomingburg reached when he explained it in his "in other words" sentence.

The first inclination is to think that he misrepresented the "ardent opposer"; for it is hard to believe that anyone besides the ardent admirers of those institutions would confuse the church and the individual. The alternative is that Brother Bloomingburg is so confused that he cannot tell the difference between the church and the individual, hence could not understand the statements of the other men.

But is this really "legalism gone to seed" or is it a weed? Perhaps he and the Advocate should be a little more careful about how they compare the orphan home and the college; they could get mixed up and call their ace writer a legalist. Whether he has confessed privately or not, this writer cannot recall having seen Guy N. Woods' confession that he has now decided that it is scriptural for the church to contribute to the school. He has formerly taught, though, that individuals could contribute to the schools. In this matter he has been one of those "church as such" brethren, recognizing that there is a difference between what an individual does and what the church does. Brother Bloomingburg may have found a blooming weed in this case rather than legalism seed. We would like to know if he thinks Brother Woods is a seedy legalist because he teaches that individuals and not the church may support schools.

"Faith Of Our Fathers"

His most serious error is in teaching that young men should not engage in teaching on the current issues, but that they should leave it to older men to discuss. That is precisely the "traditions of the elders" theory which Jesus condemned. It is the theory which has fed and fattened the Roman Catholic Church. It is the theory which will lead us to a seedy creed rather than to the seed of the kingdom, the word of God. It will develop a weed, tare, plant, which the heavenly Father will root up. See his tradition bound advice in his own words:

"Young preachers, if wiser, better informed men are discussing these issues, be slow about being so dogmatic on one side or the other that you split the church over it."

There you have it: let the older preachers discuss it and you refrain from speaking, is his theory. Presumably he thinks he is one among the "wiser, better informed," because he has spoken. He has spoken in behalf of church supported institutions which have originated in the wisdom of men rather than in the Revelation of God. He wants you to listen to him, but not speak your own convictions. Apparently he wants himself and other "wiser" men to divide the church with their human institutions.

My aim for myself, and my appeal to you, young or old, is: stay with the truth, preach it and adhere strictly to it, whether called "legalist" or some other name of reproach, try to maintain the unity of the faith as well as the unity of the body.