Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 27, 1958
NUMBER 30, PAGE 7,11b

A Diagnosis No. II.

Lloyd Moyer, El Cerrito, California

People are usually what they are taught to be. What the church is today is but the result of the teaching done in yesteryears. The WEAK, APOLOGETIC, FELLOWSHIP EVERYBODY, DON'T KNOW ATTITUDE, DON'T "FIND FAULT" WITH ANYONE, SICKLY SENTIMENTAL THINKING found in the church today MUST be the child of such teaching. People don't just get that way by themselves; they have to have some help. I am convinced that the conditions today are but symptoms of a disease that was in the body of Christ long ago. Maybe it was almost dormant, (Note: ALMOST but not wholly) or maybe it did not "amount to much at that time." However, that does not alter the fact. One may have a little "brown mole" on the face for years and it not "amount to much," yet the little mole can gradually spread until it mars the beauty and ultimately destroys the person. Just so, it has happened with the church. The kind of thinking mentioned above was at one time very much in the MINORITY; but today it is by far in the MAJORITY.

What happened? How did such a thing gain foothold in the church? These are difficult questions. However, I am convinced that the answer is in the fact that people choose the line of least resistance. It is easier to drift along with the tide than it is to paddle upstream. Those in influential positions in the church did NOT become leaders but simply drifted with the tide. They refused to take a POSITIVE stand on matters pertaining to "the Faith." They taught that one should never "find fault" and that the question of who should be fellowshipped is "uncertain." Let me give you an example of the kind of thinking I believe brought on the condition prevailing in the church today. This article appearing in "THE CHRISTIAN FORUM," November 1, 1950, Vol. 1, Issue Number 2, Page 13 under the heading of "Correspondence." The letter follows:

"Dear Brother Beam:

I read with interest your manuscript 'A' sometime since ,and now have read the first number of your "Christian Forum." There is much in both which is obviously true, and needs to be said, and I hope that good will come of your saying it. You will find enclosed my check for $2.00, for which I would like to receive the first twelve issues."

"I have talked with you long since about the questions you raise, AND YOU KNOW SOMETHING OF MY PERPLEXED STATE OF MIND. (Emp. mine, L.M.) Your interest has been focused on the problem of fellowship with brethren who use the instrument, as well as the problem of repeated splits among us, 'the non-instrument brethren.' I would agree with you that all these splits and tests of fellowship are deplorable, and so far as conditions can be improved by a rational and temperate discussion of the issues, we should certainly have it. But I am not as optimistic as you seem to be about the probable success of the discussions. I FEAR THAT THERE IS NO STABLE BASIS FOR CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP THAT IS, FOR PRECISELY DEFINING CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, IN THIS LIFE. Emp. mine, L. M.) At the two extremes we have Cardinal Gibbon saying that the church of Christ is a visible body, and must have a visible head; at the other, our liberals who say that we must have complete tolerance among all who profess faith in Christ, with Federal Councils and Ecumenical Conferences to discuss our differences and bring us into visible fellowship. Neither you nor I nor W. L. Jessup will accept either of these alternatives, chiefly because we cling TO THE NOTION THAT THE BIBLE TEACHINGS ON BAPTISM IS CLEAR ENOUGH FOR US TO STAND AGAINST THE WORLD. ACTUALLY, IT IS NOT MUCH CLEARER THAN IT IS ON THE MUSIC QUESTION. (Emp. mine, L. M.) The world of disinterested scholars agree that baptism in apostolic times was normally by immersion, and that this continued to be true till well into the middle ages; it is equally agreed that (so far as we have clear evidence) that the music of the ancient church was exclusively vocal music, with emphatic protest against the license of introducing the pagan (or Jewish) use of instruments in worship. To which the defenders of prevalent practices will in each case reply, 'Is it clear that the essential thing about baptism is complete IMMERSION? Or about the worship that the music should be exclusively vocal?' One who prefers to place the emphasis on the spiritual rather than on the formal level is likely to answer, no. JUST WHAT DEFECTS IN FORM THE LORD WILL OVERLOOK, IF ONE IS PROCEEDING IN GOOD FAITH, I CANNOT SAY. (Emp. mine, L. M.) There is a famous document, apparently of the first century, with instructions for baptism, along with numerous other church matters. It is called "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," and reads: 'Baptize, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thou has no running water, baptize in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' MUST WE NOW SAY THAT PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED THESE INSTRUCTIONS WERE LOST, HAVING NO PART IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SAINTS? OR LUTHER. CALVIN, WESLEY, AND ALL THE GREAT PIONEERS OF REFORM. WHO WERE NOT IMMERSED? OR GREAT MEN OF OUR OWN DAY. LIKE THE AUTHOR OF "THE CHRIST OF THE INDIAN ROAD," WHO IS TOURING AMERICA TODAY IN BEHALF OF A NEW CHRISTIAN UNITY? FRANKLY, THESE QUESTIONS ARE TOO HARD FOR ME, AND I TAKE NO FIXED POSITION ON FELLOWSHIP OR DISFELLOWSHIP, WITH SUCH PEOPLE." (Emp. mine, L. M.)

"I think you and I once agreed that we would fellowship the Methodist and the rest in good works, in appeals to the moral conscience of the general community, etc., but that we could not receive them into our congregation as brethren in Christ until they were immersed. So with me it is a question now only of fellowship in the local congregation, that is, fellowship in the worship at the Lord's table. THE LARGER QUESTIONS OF WHO, OUTSIDE OUR WORSHIP IS WORTHY OF FELLOWSHIP. MUST I THINK, BE LEFT UNCERTAIN IN MANY CASES. (Emp. mine, L. M.) But if I cannot, in good conscience, join in the use of the instrument, I cannot have that fellowship at the Lord's table with those who do. If such brethren present themselves in our assembly, they WILL BE MORE THAN WELCOME, AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED. IT MAY BE THAT IN THE JUDGMENT MANY OF OUR INSTRUMENT BRETHREN WILL BE ACCEPTED OF THE LORD; MY PRESENT UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHAT THE LORD'S JUDGMENT WILL BE CAN HARDLY CONDEMN ME, WHILE I CONTINUE TO FOLLOW THE WAY OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH, BEFORE THE INNOVATIONS APPEARED." (Emp. mine, L. M.)

"Meanwhile, if we become preoccupied with the difficulty of trying to unite in fellowship with the users and non-users of instruments, may we not be neglecting other more important tasks which the Lord has set before us? Many of our preaching brethren devote a surprising part of their time to preaching and writing about the factions in Louisville or some other place, perhaps thousands of miles away, raising issues of which the audience is no proper judge. THAT IS A WASTE OF TIME, I BELIEVE. (Emp. mine, L. M.) Others, like myself, after listening to the 'faultfinders,' or reading their articles, feel inspired to preach a sermon, or write an article against them, finding fault with them! And that, I fear, is rather a futile undertaking. It was not the way of T. B. Larimore, nor many others whom we both admire. 'Preach the Word,' was his motto, and he thus found his life fully occupied, without trying to settle other people's troubles."

"Well, Brother Beam, you can take all this for what it is worth. I am not sure that I can conduct myself with entire consistency in these matters, hence I cannot form a firm judgment of others. I only pray that the Lord may guide me, and teach me my errors, and somehow make me useful to others, and to Him. And I pray that he may do the same for you.

With Christian love, William M. Green."

I have quoted the entire article lest someone should accuse me of lifting out of the article only that which suited me. Thus, the reader has access to the whole of the statement. The reason I have selected this article as an example of the type of thinking which has resulted in the digressive move among us is that it is written by one of the most scholarly, respected and humble Christian men it has ever been my pleasure to know. Brother Green is an elder in the Berkeley, California church, a teacher in the University of California, and a preacher of no mean ability. I can add that I count him as a friend even though, for years, we have differed on many subjects pertaining to the work of the Lord. There is nothing personal in my writing this article reviewing Brother Green's letter. I selected it because he has been in a place of prominence in the church for years. Colleges among us have used him for special classes. Churches have used him for special classes in History and Greek. Truly, Brother Green's thinking is representative of the type of thinking sought for, and utilized by the churches and colleges for the past decade or two. I believe a review of this letter will reveal some of the reasoning that has produced such a confused and chaotic condition in the church. I pray that I can be entirely fair in my review; that I shall not deal in personalities but rather with issues.