Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1960
NUMBER 10, PAGE 4-5,14

Dramatizing The Gospel Of Christ

Bryan Vinson, Longview, Texas

Much controversy has resulted from and centered around the Herald of Truth program, and congregations have been torn asunder as a result. The acceptance of this program as being scriptural and entitled to support is one of the tenets of the popular creed in the church today. We have heard of the congregation holding the position that no one could be regarded as qualified to be an elder without subscribing to this tenet — an approval of the Herald of Truth program. Debates have been engaged in, and the old arguments presented by the defenders of the Missionary Society have been resurrected and palmed off as affording support for it. This one difference: the digressives of old could make a better use, or make the use of the argument appear in a better light, than these brethren of this time and in defense of this creature can and do.

I have an article which appeared in the Abilene Reporter-News of Jan 14, 1960, dealing with the origin and development of this program, headed: 'Herald of Truth' Show Expansion Impressive. This thing started with two youths, one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the other in Madison, Wisconsin. Being their brain-child they needed some help in hatching it, and to Abilene they brought it. Finally the Highland congregation (the elders, that is) bought the idea and immediately set forth to secure the money from other congregations to pay for it. They assumed a responsibility far beyond their ability to meet and discharge, and knowingly so, too. This indicts it as being wrong for such is not honorable procedure on the part of anyone--even unintentionally so, and as prompted by good motives.

For several years it has been in operation, but recently the character of this program has been radically changed. We have witnessed heretofore different congregations enjoying the limelight in the televising of a service, which we understand the pay for the filming of, supposedly as a compensation for the notoriety they receive. Too, of one we read: "We want to remind each one again that the date for the making of the Television Film here at Mobberly is set for May 17th. Let us continue to improve our singing with every service that all may be in readiness by this date". Was the worship more important on that date than any other? Also, we heard of one place where the members were told how to dress when this filming was fa-1C done!

In watching the "responses" we have wondered if in every instance it was genuine ,or an act designed to impress. However, the new approach is that of acting a part, of affecting a position and acting that does not truly represent the position and the condition of the one so acting. Brother Batsell Barrett Baxter plays the role of the preacher; With other brethren amateurishly playing supporting roles in this new dramatic program. In this article above mentioned we are presented with two scenes, one taken in the mezzanine of Abilene's Hotel Windsor, and the other of Baxter standing behind and looking down on a flower-covered casket. In the first scene two young people portray a couple who are "reluctant to come to Christ". Unhappily, the young husband is killed before he is baptized, and thus the "funeral" scene is a sequel to this tragedy!

It so happens that this couple are identified in real life as "both teachers in Abilene Christian College", and as Mr. and Mrs. Henry Speck. Hence, we see them just playacting in regard to religion for the amusement and hoped-for conversion of others. However, to make such an appeal based on the emotional, character of a death and funeral smacks of old-time denominational death-bed tales designed to panic folks into hitting the sawdust trail. We saw this particular program, and the janitor failed to write a note sufficiently legible for the preacher to read it, and he had to call the janitor to decipher it for him, which makes for a tense and entertaining dialogue delivered by the janitor in a voice reminiscent of Chester on Gunsmoke, but not nearly so effectively done. The janitor, we learn from this article, is a preacher from Sweetwater, by the name of Stanley Shipp.

Another one of these programs had a professor at A. C. C. playing the role of a successful man of the world who was being besought by the preacher to become a Christian with the appeal being related as to his success in the business and community life of his city. His efforts to convert him were tied in with coffee drinking and golf-playing. The whole thing constitutes the most aggravated instance of a travesty against the religion of Christ of which brethren have ever been guilty, and strives for first place with some of the behavior of sectarians. Of course, the whole thing is conditioned with a view of attracting the world on its own plane, and thus cheapens religion beyond expression. It is, or should be revolting and repulsive to every child of God to behold such a ludicrous spectacle palmed off in the name of Christ, and identified in the mind of the observing public as the product of Churches of Christ. For, one I disclaim all connections with, or approval of, such a caricature of the gospel of Christ, and think it would be well if a public disavowal was made to the broadcasting company and, through available media, to the general public by those who have suffered and do suffer, humiliation as members of the Lord's church because of this silly, misleading and cheap form of entertainment.

In this article from Abilene we also note the efforts of brother W. F. Cawyer as one of who travels extensively for this program (and yet would deny being a hobbyist, despite the fact he speaks constantly on one subject — The Herald of Truth), and that he has many stories to tell about people who have heard and given to the program. We are told that, "Cawyer looked up a man in Chicago who had sent in a check, and discovered he was "Christian of another faith who had heard the radio program, liked what was said and sent in the money to help keep it on the air." Of course his job is seeking and securing money, and perhaps the third epistle of Peter contains encouragement for him in the statement that — "in all your getting, get the money". He found a "Christian of another faith " who had sent them money because he liked what he heard! We wonder about a Christian of another faith, as to just what that faith was, or is? Of course it probably didn't matter since holding it he still liked what held to this other faith! But the main thing is that they had one point in common in the respective beliefs — he liked and supported the Herald of Truth. This having he is a "Christian" this lacking a Christian becomes an Apostate in the estimation of Cawyer and company! !

Of course this whole thing was conceived and projected as suggested by the fact there is the "Catholic Hour", the "Lutheran Hour" and the "Baptist Hour'. This demanded that '"we have a Church of Christ Hour — speaking for the Churches of Christ all over the country. This they have no moral or religious right to do. The Church of the Lord is decidedly dissimilar to denominations and cannot scripturally function as do these unscriptural bodies. But these young men and "elders" decided otherwise and they have set in motion and operation a monster that will destroy its creators and supporters. Also, seeing the Knights of Columbus ads in various periodicals, another brainchild was born a few years ago — Gospel Press it is headquartered in Dallas, and has sought funds to pay for ads in magazines with the assumed right and power to tell all who read what the churches of Christ teach. And merrily along do brethren go as they increasingly new-form and mold the church into the pattern of denominational thought, action and form. The insipid material which I have seen and heard on the Herald of Truth isn't calculated to "turn anyone from darkness to light, (by opening their eyes), and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Christ". Consequently, there are those who esteem themselves Christians of another faith, while being pleased with and extending financial support to the Herald of Truth. The preaching of the apostles either converted those who heard them or aroused their ill will; it never left the hearers satisfied and pleased with what they were and also with what they heard as in the case above noted from Chicago. We hope you who read "these lines will ponder how far and radically the path being trod veers form that laid out by the apostles, and should you be following it recover yourself from its deceptive and misleading pretensions.

Many of us in our very young childhood "played" church, but like Paul, when we became men we "put away childish things," but not so these brethren at Abilene--they are still "playing church". Be it remembered that the term hypocrite originally signified stage acting or playing, and thus to behold brethren play-acting, however childish it be, smacks of hypocrisy of a sort that is sickening in the extreme.

Differences And Divisions

In any society, political or religious, where differences arise there may result division or a separation of the differing grounds within that body. I say there may result division; it by no means follows that it is inevitable. There are several factors that may be present, or courses emerge, that will work to bring about a satisfactory resolving of the differences and thus avert an open cleavage.

First, the nature of the difference is vital in its bearing on the effect to be produced upon the parties involved. There are three distinct, and therefore distinguishable, causes or kinds of differences that may arise between even brethren in the Lord. These are first, those arising from undue personal attachments, as noted in Paul's letter to the Corinthians; second, those of the nature of difference In judgment in matters wholly of human judgment, asinstanced in the difference between Paul and Barnabas; and, third, those involving matters of faith and doctrine. Of each of these we wish to speak.

With respect to the first, Paul, in the third chapter of First Corinthians, identifies the condition thus expressed by an attachment for men as that of being carnal; that Is, fleshly. In the kingdom of Christ, a spiritual kingdom, one not established on a fleshly relationship or conditions, such a state and attitude was altogether reprehensible. As a matter of fact "we are to know no man after the flesh", not even Jesus, who, though we have known him after the flesh henceforth know we him no more, so says Paul. 2 Cor. 5:16. If, then, we are to know no man after the flesh it follows that if we exercise a respect for, a partiality toward, persons we are acting upon a principle subversive of the very character and design of the kingdom of heaven. Within a congregation for personal rivalries to develop and personal attachments and following be formed great and lasting harm can result. This sort of difference, however, can be resolved without too much difficulty. It is a case where individuals need to see the absurdity of contending about persons and petty ambitions that have no place in the thinking and behavior of the church anyway, and thus repent of their involvement in such matters. In Corinth the situation likely resulted without any encouragement from those men whom they sought to unduly honor. Certainly, in the case of Paul he definitely chose the form of presentation and his whole demeanor in preaching the gospel, with the intent that faith of those converted should stand in the power of God rather than in the wisdom of men. Gospel preachers, and others in positions of leading influence in the church, should always endeavor most sincerely and energetically to woo and win people to the Lord rather than to themselves.

The second sort of differences mentioned are those wherein brethren may, and often do, differ in matters of judgment. The fact that we have the case of Paul and Barnabas on record is not without purpose and advantage. Please read Acts 15:36-41, Here we find a sharp difference between Paul and Barnabas over the point of Mark accompanying them on a proposed visit to the brethren in every city where they had preached. Barnabas was determined to take Mark with them; Paul thought it not good to take him with them, he having departed from them at Pamphylia, not going to the work with them. It was a matter of difference in judgment as to the worthiness of Mark to accompany them. They, Paul and Barnabas, parted, Mark, going with Barnabas and Silas accompanying Paul. Did this create a rupture in their esteem for each other, and their recognition of one another as brethren? There is no indication of such, and too, they were recommended to the grace of God by, brethren.

This is the kind of difference that may arise without any necessity of a division between brethren occurring. True, Paul and Barnabas separated but not in the sense that, each reproved and rejected the other; they simply found it more congenial to work separately, physically, that is though in harmony as touching the work of each and the design of their labors. We find Paul mentioning Mark in a commendable fashion in two instances — Col. 4:10, and 2 Tim. 4:11.

The lesson, therefore, we need to learn in this account is that brethren should never magnify the importance of their own judgment to the point where they regard others as unfaithful to the Lord who do not follow their decisions of human judgment. In the realm of any given undertaking as pertains to the circumstances of its accomplishments, and where we are left to the recourse to our own judgment each one should be agreeable to acceding to the judgment of the other rather than cause a break in the affections and fraternal relations of brethren; and should, as in the case of Paul and Barnabas, the difference be so sharp as to render working separately advisable it should not create any breach between them as brethren in the Lord.

In these current issues the estimate of the opposing groups as to the merits of the case is very different. Those favoring the things being done regard them as matters of human judgment, as being authorized mere expedient methods of doing the work, of the church. Those opposing them do so not as a difference of judgment in matters of expedience and therefore being on the plane of human opinion of the best way to do that which may be done acceptably otherwise. They regard the issues as resting on the principle of faith. Now, with this different concept anyone can readily see that those favoring the present form of church cooperation and human benevolent organizations should on their premise, recognize the impropriety and wrong of breaking fellowship over questions of a difference in human judgment. When they do they must bear the odium of having elevated their judgment to the plane of divine law as a standard that is to govern the action of God's children. In theory this they deny, whereas in practice they exemplify this attitude.

This being the widespread and currently prevailing condition, division is inevitable. No God-fearing, Christ-serving saint can submit to such human authority in religion. The duped followers of the Papacy and the benighted adherents of Protestant creeds may follow that which in effect has supplanted the Word of God, but the children of the Most High must stand fast in that liberty wherewith Christ has made them free and not become entangled in any yoke of bondage. When brethren, because of oppressive numbers and resources, set in operation great and imposing programs of operation requiring a departure from the Divine standard to execute it, then we must decline to go along. There is no alternative other than to refuse except to stultify one's conscience.

But viewing these differences as matters of faith there still is no necessity that division, clean and complete, result therefrom. A course which the scriptures dictate, brotherly love impels and common sense sanctions is that of study and discussion, reasoning together on the scriptures to see whether these things be true. A refusal on the part of either person to a difference to meet, to discuss and endeavor to resolve the difference renders impossible its removal and the restoration of the former peace and harmony. Hence it is the responsibility of both parties to put forth every effort toward the harmonizing of their differences by the only possible way in which it can be accomplished. Where either refuses then the responsibility is his for the division wrought.

In conclusion, then, we are led to view the responsibility for the present state of division as resting on those who have pressed their human judgments and programs to the rupturing of fraternal relations; and their unwillingness to submit the issues to a candid and fraternal appeal to the scriptures as brethren appeal to the scriptures as brethren makes the outlook far from favorable as touching any healing of the breach. Their responsibility and guilt are established on both counts. It should be the fervent prayer of every Christian that this condition be corrected and this blame be removed for their good and the good of generations yet unborn.