Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 1, 1958
NUMBER 1, PAGE 3a,5a

"Thumb Screws And Loose Screws"

C. E. W. Dorris, Nashville, Tennessee

The following article is from the Old Path Guide, 1880, page 147. This paper was published from Louisville, Kentucky, with F. G. Allen as editor and proprietor. Allen lifted an article from the Apostolic Times bearing the above caption and published it with his comments. We give the article in full, together with Allen's comments:

"In the Apostolic Times of March 12 appeared the following editorial:

The Organ Question We had desired to keep out of these columns a further discussion of the organ question, because in our judgment it has been thoroughly discussed without the accomplishment of good.

There are, however, good brethren who are of the opinion the question should be discussed, and as the paper is the organ of the brotherhood in the State, we shall admit such articles as are characterized by a Christian spirit, and are a fair and dispassionate discussion of the subject.

Above all things we desire to see the brethren thoroughly united, both in heart and hand. This is necessary for the accomplishment of the great work of our Lord and Master. With an eye single to this, we have and shall ever conduct our editorial career.

As for the Apostolic Times it stands today as it has always stood, opposed to the organ in the worship of God; but for above reasons we have declined to discuss the question in these columns. We can not hate, or disfellowship, or even cease to love a brother because he may differ from us in opinion; in other words, we do not believe in Thumb Screws.'

"This strikes us as strangely inconsistent. But as an explanation of the recent course of the Apostolic Times it could not well be otherwise. Only as it affects the great work in which we are mutually engaged do we feel any concern about it; but on this account we feel called upon to notice some of its most prominent features.

"It is announced that the Times is opposed to the organ in the worship of God, but at the same time has been opposed to the discussion of the question in its columns. The reason assigned is that it will accomplish no good.

"Now, if the Times is opposed to the organ in the worship, it must be for some reason. It must think that it is wrong, or will result in wrong; otherwise it should not be opposed to it. Unless it thinks the use of the organ an evil, the statement is very inconsistent. Then if it thinks the organ an evil, while others do not, and hence persist in using it, we are curious to know why the discussion of its evil or innocence will accomplish no good. Why discriminate between this and any other evil? Should we not shut out discussion on the evil of the whiskey traffic, dancing, horse-racing, theater-going, and the like? If the discussion of one evil will result in no good, why not a discussion of other evils result the same way? If the discussion of the organ question will result favorably to the organ, while it would not to the other evil mentioned, it must be because there is more truth on the organ side, which discussion would only develop. Then, if this is so, we all ought to know it and accept it.

"There is another feature about this hard to understand. If the Times was opposed to the organ, but thought a discussion of both sides would do harm, what good did it expect to accomplish by presenting one side, and that the organ side? Is the organ such an exception to all ordinary things that the most effectual way to aid it is to oppose it, and the most effectual way to check it is to speak in its favor? So it seems.

"But since a number of 'good brethren are of the opinion that the question should be discussed', that is, on both sides, the Times consents to 'admit such articles as are characterized by a Christian spirit, and are a fair and dispassionate discussion of the question.' Of course this is the only kind of discussion admissible at any time. This must always result in Good. Honest, straight-forward investigation is what we want on all subjects. We should only want to know the truth, let that be what it may. If such a discussion leads us to the organ, then the sooner the better. So far as union among the brotherhood is concerned, it can be maintained only in this way. Desirable as union in our work is, no right thinking man could want it at the expense of truth and free speech. Hence we editors shall labor most effectually to that end by granting free discussion, in the right spirit, on all questions pertaining to our faith or work that may arise among us.

"After giving his reasons for not discussing the organ question in the Times, the editor adds: 'We can not hate, or disfellowship, or even cease to love a brother because he may differ from us in opinion.' Certainly not; but what has that to do with the question? This is not a question as to whether we shall fall out with and disfellowship those who differ from us in opinion. It is a question as to the evil that the organ is working in our churches. Have we come to this, that we can not discuss grave and important questions without engendering 'hate' and 'disfellowship'? If so, we had better shut up all around and quit. The organ may be the occasion of some people's acting in such a way as to compel us by the law of God to withhold from them Christian recognition and fellowship; but this is only an additional reason why the question should be thoroughly discussed and understood.

"The editor closes by announcing the important fact that he does not believe in 'thumb screws.' In this we fully agree with him. But there are some other kinds of screws for which we have equally as little use. We have about as much relish for thumb screws as we have for loose screws. Thumb screws have gained the greater notoriety in the history of the church; but loose screws have always been the most numerous, and done a sight more mischief. As to our work as a people, there is a thousand times more to be feared from loose screws than thumb screws. While these two kinds of screws are so widely different in their nature, there are some things that it is difficult to tell which screw is responsible for.

When a contributor, for instance, can not appear in a paper, when he thihks he has a right to be heard, you can't convince him that there isn't some kind of a screw about that office that oughtn't to be there; but whether it is a thumb screw or a loose screw will remain to him a profound mystery. We happen to know of quite a number of our very best brethren who would be greatly relieved if they could only determine what kind of screw it was that did the work for them!

"In the free use of the thumb screw there is danger that we may feel a few twitches of it ourselves. In that case it is also possible that one's objection to the thumb screw may depend on the question as to whom it is going to be applied." (Old Path Guide, 1880.)

In this year of 1958 we would like to introduce another Screw, a very valuable one, not mentioned by either of the above writers — the Jack Screw. It can be used to jack up, and set in order, not only loose screws, but almost anything that gets out of order. Loose screws are very dangerous things in any machine, for the reason they are liable to wreck the whole machine. It is clear from Allen's article in the Old Path Guide that a screw got loose in the editorial chair of the Apostolic Times relative to the organ. Allen wrote 78 years ago, which shows that screws sometimes worked loose in editorial chairs even in those early days. Screws working loose in editorial chairs is no new thing. It has been a rather contagious disease among editors down through the years. When F. G. Allen died, the Old Paths Guide fell into the hands of new managers, and immediately the editor-in-chief developed into a loose screw and endorsed the organ in worship. This led to M. C. Kurfees' resigning as one of the editors of the Guide. Many years ago a screw got loose in the editorial chair of the Octographic Review, and Daniel Sommer, the editor adopted the policy of not publishing both sides of a question — a thing utterly unheard of among simple Christians up to his day. Soon after Joe S. Warlick began publication of a paper in 1903, a screw got loose in that office and Brother Warlick decided to follow Sommer's example and refuse to publish both sides of a question. It was because of such a policy that David Lipscomb ceased reading both Sommer's paper and Warlick's.

More recently, a screw in Nashville worked loose; and for several years now brotherly discussions of both sides of a question are prohibited and excluded from the columns of the Gospel Advocate. Brother Lipscomb used the columns of his "Old Reliable" as a jack screw, to jack up all the loose screws that appeared on the scene in his day, no difference in whose machine he found them. The loose screws in the editorial chairs of F. G. Allen's paper, Daniel Sommer's paper, and Joe Warlick's paper all felt the weight of Lipscomb's jack screw. If it were possible for this faithful servant of God to use his old jack screw from that grave in Olivet Cemetery, who can doubt that he would jack up the screw that has of late years worked loose in Nashville?