Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 1, 1958
NUMBER 1, PAGE 1,12-13a

Lanier Answers Woods I

Roy H. Lanier

(Editor's note: In 1956 Brother Roy H. Lanier, at that time and for some fifteen years preceding that date a staff writer for the Gospel Advocate, wrote a series of articles on current issues. The editor of the Advocate published some four or five of the articles, but refused to complete the series when he saw that Lanier was writing contrary to his own views. Lanier then severed his connection with the Advocate in protest against such unusual and arbitrary treatment by an editor of a staff-writer, and wrote a series of articles in the Firm Foundation entitled "In The Middle of the Road," setting forth his conviction as to a scriptural course to follow in congregational cooperation in caring for the orphan and the widow. Brother Guy N. Woods responded to these articles by a series in the Gospel Advocate entitled "Lanier In The Middle of the Wrong Road." Many of Brother Lanier's friends urged him to respond to the Woods articles; others urged him to make no public reply. The following letter was sent to Brother Woods as a private letter, but mimeographed copies of it have received a rather wide distribution among many who were interested. Because of its merit, and in the hope that it will be a worthwhile contribution to the discussion of the issues, we are happy to give space to it in this and succeeding issues of the Gospel Guardian.)

Mr. Guy N. Woods Memphis, Tennessee

Dear Brother Woods:

Meetings, a daily radio program, one hundred people enrolled in a Bible course by correspondence and preparation for third-year Bible courses — and a little laziness — have kept me from writing you at an earlier date. Be assured that I hold you in as high esteem as ever, though I am somewhat puzzled at some of the moves you have taken. My first impulse on reading your two articles was to jump right in, and, for the love of a lively scrap, expose your misrepresentations and unscriptural positions as thoroughly as possible. But on the advice of friends have decided not to make a public reply. I have had no correspondence with Bro. Lemmons since I sent him my articles last fall, so do not know whether he would be in favor of more on the subject at this time. But I am writing you about what I would write if I were writing for publication. You will, of course, reply or not as you see fit. There are some of these misrepresentations which I think you will wish to correct, perhaps publicly, but certainly that will be up to you. I am determined not to allow your refusal, if you see fit to do so, to affect in the least my attitude toward you.

As I develop these matters I will likely do it in my "hammer and tong" fashion as usual, but be assured that this is no indication of a lack of brotherly love. I believe in being plain and frank in order to be understood, but one can thus express himself without being guilty of a lack of brotherly love. And if I forget in the body of the discussion to pad my statements with this expression of my feelings toward you, you will please remember this initial statement applies all the way through this epistle. You will please excuse the form, putting the headings in caps, but I think this will serve a purpose. The first division is headed as


1. In GA p. 226, you say "we" did not know he held such position. This follows a mention of Bro. Goodpasture, so I do not know whether you use "we" to include him or not. If you include him, your statement is positively false. I have talked these matters with him on several occasions. And for two years he held up publication on my book on THE CHURCH because of matters of this kind I wanted to include. People generally think Bro. Goodpasture is included in "we" and so your statement is unfair to me.

2. Twice on this same page you accuse me of launching an attack on the GA, Bro. Goodpasture and yourself, charging you all with being "liberal and on the extreme right." First, let me deny that I launched an attack on either of you. This, of course, is a matter of viewpoint. But I certainly am innocent of intending what I wrote to be of the nature of an attack. I felt that both the brotherhood and myself were entitled to some explanation for my leaving the Gospel Advocate. After being with it for fifteen years and having recently formed a closer union which caused me to move to Nashville, brethren would know that something caused us to break from the GA and leave Nashville. If nothing had been said, people would have been left to their imagination and that would have been worse than a plain truthful statement such as I made. I may have erred in judgement, but to this date I am not convinced of an error. And ugly charges of error without proof do not serve very well as evidence to me. Again, the word "attack" means "To assail with unfriendly speech or writing." The word denotes belligerency. I cannot to this day see anything unfriendly or belligerent in my series.

Next, you make much of the words "liberal" and "extreme right." You do not say so, but the implications seem to be that I accused you all of being liberal and extreme right in the sense of being modernistic. The context of my use of these terms shows that they are to be applied to this discussion of homes for aged and orphans. And the very title of my series indicates that these terms can have no other application. You are on the opposite end from the Gospel Guardian position and everybody knows that is true. I should think you would be proud to admit that you are. I do not hold to the GG position; I do not hold to your position; therefore, the title THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. That is all I meant by the terms "liberal" and "extreme right" and I am inclined to believe you know that is true. That being true, there is no basis for the use of the word "attack" in my use of these terms. But to charge that I had made an attack on you, Bro. Goodpasture, and the Gospel Advocate would do a lot to prejudice the minds of people, especially east of the Miss. River, against my position and make your work of answering me much easier.

Another statement in this same paragraph: "We were wholly unaware that there lurked in his heart such grave feelings as these ..." Maybe you were unaware, but Bro. Goodpasture was not. But that word "lurked" is extremely unhappy in its use here. I am slow to believe yet that you intended all that is meant by that word. It means "to lie hidden, as in ambush; to stay in or about a place secretly or furtively." The word "furtive" implies stealth. That statement is ugly; it is not like you. You have been free to express your appreciation of me in years past and I have responded in kind. Now that I make a plain statement of why I left the Gospel Advocate Staff and a plain statement of what I believe and have always believed, why should you say that these things "lurked" in my heart? While I would have been perfectly willing to discuss these matters with you, I felt no obligation to run to you and tell you what I believe about them. I did feel an obligation to tell Bro. Goodpasture what I believe and I did so on several occasions.

3. In GA, 1957, p. 227, you charge that I and the FF "have aligned themselves with, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Lufkin." Of course you know that I have not "espoused the position" of these men. How could I try to set forth a middle of the road position while I occupy the same position they hold? You could just as honestly say I have espoused your position, since I am midway between you and them. On p. 246, you try to prove that I have adopted their arguments. If they make this silly argument you say they do, they ought to be exposed. But if I may add a little, I would adopt the argument. 1. It is a work of the church to teach the word of God. 2. Elders should oversee all the work of the church. 3. Therefore, elders should oversee all of the teaching of the word of God which is done by the church as corporate body. That will help you see my position on the work of benevolence. I believe that elders should oversee all benevolence which God expects that church as a corporate body to do.

On the same page, 246, you quote me as saying "I believe I have shown that individuals have no right to band themselves together ... etc." Then you say 2. "York College is an institution composed of individuals who have banded themselves together in a corporate body outside the framework of the church to do a work of the church — teaching the Bible — which the Lord expects his church to do." Now, Bro. Woods, I have always believed you are honest and that you would not knowingly misrepresent one with whom you discuss matters. But in this case I would about as willingly accuse you of willful misrepresentation as to accuse you of such ignorance as is betrayed in this statement. Do you actually believe that all our Bible colleges are doing the work the church ought to do when they teach Bible? Will you affirm that only the church is authorized to teach the Bible? You would have to do that to maintain your position here. Don't you know that when we teach the Bible in these colleges we are doing what the home can no longer do? If York College, or any other college operating among us, is doing the teaching which the Lord expects his church to do, I am ready to oppose them as usurping the place of the church. This is where Sommer and Ketcherside have made their mistake; they refuse to see that the college can, for a fee, serve the child in the place of the parents while getting an education. This is a useless misrepresentation and a hurtful one. Just yesterday I received a letter from an old friend who had just visited in Nashville where she was asked by many if she had heard that Lanier had joined the anti-orphan home forces. They have never read what I believe and that is the conclusion they have reached. All teaching of the Bible done by the church as a corporate body is to be done under the oversight of elders. But teaching of the Bible by colleges and publishing houses for a fee is not to be under the oversight of elders, neither is benevolent work which is done by a group of people for a fee to be under the oversight of the elders. But more of this later.

4. In the GA 1957, p. 248, you charge that I fell "into the same blunder characteristic of Brother Porter, in this matter, and utterly fails to apprehend the use we made of the illustration." Now, Bro. Woods, there was no reason for you to make this false statement, for I stated your reason for the illustration in almost your own words. I said you "argued that the Federal Government has certain work to do and that it organizes the Post Office Department, the Highway Department, etc., and that these various departments are not in conflict or competition to the Federal Government. So churches can operate homes for the aged and orphans without these homes being in conflict or competition to the churches." Now, after accusing me of missing the point, you say, "We urged the parallel in the Indianapolis debate not for the purpose of proving that the homes are scriptural, but merely to show that organizations operating in totally different fields, and therefore of different categories, are not in conflict with each other." Now where is my misuse of your illustration, I went on to say that as long as these orphan homes maintain the same relationship to the church that the P. O. Dept. does to the Fed. Gov., they are right; but if you and I establish a P. O. Dept. of our own, outside of the framework of the Fed. Gov., we will be in conflict with the Gov. So if an orphan home is built out of the framework of the local church, it maintains the same relationship to the church that our private P. O. Dept. would sustain to the Fed. Gov.

In this connection you stoop (I use that word advisedly) to something I never thought you would do — argument by insinuation. You say, "it is, for example, the function of the state to provide education in some secular realms; is it, therefore, in competition with the state???" Now, Bro. Woods, you will not affirm that the state is the only one authorized to give education in the secular realm, but if it is not, there is no point to your argument. You insinuate that the state is the only body that can operate in that realm and on that insinuation you try to embarrass me. What would you do to D. M. Jackson if he were to try to prove by insinuation something he would not have the courage to affirm boldly? Whatever you would do to him is what should be done to you in this case. It is common with Baptist preachers with whom I have debated to do such things, but I am wholly unprepared to appreciate such tactics in you.

But you were not content to pull this stunt once, you added a second instance in the same connection, the following sentence. You say, "should he by-pass the P. O.and send a missive by private messenger, does he show disloyality to the P. O. Dept. and the government?" In this you insinuate that sending a missive by private messenger is on par with establishing a P. O. Dept. of our own. This you will not openly affirm; why insinuate it and use it to my disadvantage?

You were unhappy in the use of that P. O. illustration, though it worked well with Porter. If the orphan home does not sustain the same relationship to the church that the P. O. sustains to the Fed. Gov., there is no point to your illustration; but if the orphan home sustains that relationship to the church, the home is under the care and direction of the church. And since the church gives such direction through its elders, it follows that the elder's have oversight of the home. My guess is that you will not use that illustration again.

(To be continued)