Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 26, 1963
NUMBER 21, PAGE 2,11b

A Letter From David Bobo

Yours in the faith of Christ, Signed: David H. Bobo

Dear Brother Tant:

Thank you for your courtesy in allowing me to say a few words in regard to the article which recently appeared in the Guardian under my name I feel that certain explanations are proper to avoid misunderstandings which would be of no advantage to either the truth or to you or me personally.

First, as you know, the article represented the script of a sermon which I preached more than twelve years ago. Though I do not remember ever knowing that it was being considered for publication, I accept your assurance that it was so understood at the time you obtained it. My memory is just not a good as I could wish. This sermon reflected an apprehension which I am sure I felt somewhat more keenly then than I do now. I had only recently known of an instance in which institutional agents had worked into a congregation and persuaded a number of the members to withhold their contributions from the church treasury and give them to the institution, on the ground that the elders didn't favor the institution and would not support it out of the church treasury. This I deplored at the time and would still deplore. If this was to be the policy of institutional agents I felt that it would be a flagrant violation of New Testament principles and must be opposed. I am happy to say that I think the institutional agents have learned some important lessons along the way, and that their ethics in such matters have improved. I do not feel the same apprehension now that I did at that time.

Secondly, I am not aware of any change in my convictions so far as the scriptural principles involved are concerned, though again I know that changes do come, and sometimes so imperceptibly that we are not able to discern or measure them. But I am sure of one thing, and that is that my attitude in regard to the cooperative and benevolent enterprises among us has always been one of caution and advisability and never one of outright opposition or condemnation. I hold the feeling that there are potential dangers in most of the enterprises afoot among us today, but I don't know of any of them that I feel is positively wrong within itself. Therefore, I have, especially in the earlier days, felt the need to sound a word of caution or warning, but that is as far as I have ever felt justified in going. On the other hand, I believe there is great good being done through them, which certainly was not being done without them, and as long as I do not believe they are being reckless of New Testament principles I feel that honesty demands that I commend them and as far as possible support and encourage them.

I have never been a great enthusiast for the institutional care of children, particularly in the light of recent scientific and academic studies in that field. But regardless of those considerations, I think it is a major tragedy to make the very kingdom of God hang upon the orphan home practice, or one's personal Christian status depend upon his oath of allegiance to the practice. Yet, I also recognize that the homes provide a solution to some problems which we do not seem to be able to solve otherwise. I believe the supporting of such a home by either a congregation or an individual to be within their rights in the context of Christian freedom. I have worked with churches which gave from their treasury, and I would do so again without any qualms as long as it could be done without disrupting the integrity and unity of the congregation. I have given personally to the homes and to other cooperative enterprises as well as through the church treasuries. This does not mean that I think there are no faults to be found with these efforts, and I reserve the right to expose these faults as I see them and issue warnings and admonitions. But I do not find sufficient scriptural warrant for a dogmatic position in either direction. I believe that we must still proceed cautiously but with a free and open mind. It is my conviction that to the extent to which any enterprise, including schools and journals, dominate and interfere with the free exercise of our congregational or individual judgments in these matters, to that extent they are unmistakably wrong and stand condemned. But each one must determine for himself to what extent they interfere, or whether or not they interfere with this freedom.

In the third place, though I doubtless have changed in the intervening twelve years, I feel that it is correct to say that there has also been a great change in the over-all temperament of the whole brotherhood. I think there was a time when a sermon or article like the one in question could be published and would be regarded simply as suggestive or monitory, but that is no longer the case generally. Lines have been drawn to such an extent, and tensions are now so great that any such expression is instantly taken as definitely identifying the author with one of two categories with all its shades of opinion, fellowship policies and party clichs. This is true on both sides of the present controversy. When the words of that article were spoken they were not intended to make any such identification, but only to sound what I believed to be a needed warning and reminder. I still feel that warnings and reminders are needed, and I accept my share of the responsibility for them. But I refuse to be identified as opposed to the present brotherhood enterprises within themselves Most of the brotherhood efforts, new and unproven at the time of that sermon, have, I think, proven through the years their Christian integrity and their worthiness of my commendation and encouragement. If and when I feel they betray that confidence, I shall feel equally compelled to oppose them. I believe our situation is still somewhat fluid and not static, and that it must continue to be judged by the hour and not once for all time to come.

I may be told that my position Is one of fence-straddling, but that does not disturb me. It is my honest conviction and I am as sincere in it as any other is in his. I must be true to my convictions and my own conscience as I grant the same right to every other person. If I have one supreme conviction, it is the conviction of Christian freedom under the sovereignty of Christian love. As God knows my heart I have nothing but good will and yearning love toward all of my brethren on both sides of this controversy, and I pray earnestly for the day of peace and the return of the confidence and fellowship which I nostalgically, if vaguely, remember in earlier days. May God be merciful to us all and give us more of his own grace in all of our dealings one with another.